Oct. 4, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- If freshman George Marshall's first career assist is any indication of the impact he can make, he's going to be a pretty special point guard for the Badgers.
Thursday afternoon, Marshall helped pull together a private meet-and-greet with President Barack Obama for the Wisconsin men's basketball team, moments before the president addressed a crowd on Bascom Hill.
What started as a Twitter crusade from redshirt junior Zach Bohannon to get Obama to play basketball with the Badgers, ended instead with a backstage conversation ranging from basketball to LSAT exams.
Bohannon's first Tweet began as somewhat of a joke and an extreme long shot.
Roughly 100 Tweets to Obama and several of his staffers later (the best can be found here), Bohannon and his teammates were making little progress with the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's when Marshall realized he just may have another way to access the president.
Marshall, a Chicago native, called former AAU teammate and current Harvard basketball player Alex Nesbitt, whose father is one of Obama's closest friends. As luck would have it, Nesbitt's father, Marty Nesbitt, is currently traveling with the president and helped get Marshall and his 15 teammates one of the most coveted VIP passes in the country.
"I knew Zach and some of the guys were trying to contact President Obama, but I didn't really think about how I might be able to help," Marshall said. "It would have been fun to play basketball with him, but this was an incredible experience and I'm glad I could help make it happen."
The team spent about five minutes with the president and Bohannon was quick to formally reiterate his Twitter invitation.
"I said, `Mr. President, on behalf of the whole team, I would like to invite you to play a pick-up game with us sometime.' He said, `I tell you what, when this whole campaign settles down, I promise I'll get in a game with you guys.' Then he said, `I'm not much of a scorer these days, I just like to pass. Is there anyone here who will shoot if I pass it to them?' Ryan Evans said, `Yeah, I'll shoot it, sir.'"
"We asked him how far he's going to pick us in the NCAA tournament this year," junior Josh Gasser said. "He smiled and said he'll have to wait and see how the bracket shakes out."
Senior Dan Fahey used his moment with the president to get some advice about his upcoming exam.
"I am taking the LSAT Saturday Mr. President, any tips?" Fahey asked.
"I'm sure you'll do great, just relax and don't get stressed out. When you're a lawyer some day you can represent your teammates," Obama responded.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime-type of opportunity and something we'll never forget," Bohannon added. "The president came into the room and started talking basketball with us. He said `I've got a challenge for you. We all know you guys can win at home. The true test is whether you guys can win on the road.' We couldn't believe he knew about our home record at the Kohl Center.
"But we're going to hold him to that pick-up game he promised," Bohannon joked.
Obama may not need much persuasion, seeing that he led off his speech to the near 30,000 spectators re-emphasizing that promise.
"First of all, I've got to point out members of the Badgers basketball team are over here and they're getting ready for their season," Obama remarked in his shout-out. "They've invited me to play. I said, `After the election, I will be raining down jumpers on them.' Actually I didn't say that, I said, `I'm getting kind of old.'"
The icing on the cake for the Badgers was that they got to trade in an afternoon of running sprints at the Elver Park hill for an unforgettable afternoon with President Obama on Bascom Hill.