Nov. 12, 2012
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin's 62-14 win over Indiana at Memorial Stadium.
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- Three possessions spoke loudly Sunday for why freshman Zak Showalter is not redshirting and all three came long after Wisconsin had silenced Southeastern Louisiana in the season opener.
*With the shot clock running down, Evan Anderson was forced to launch a 3-point shot. Anticipating a potential weakside rebound, Showalter got inside position on Todd Nelson and scored on the put- back and drew a foul. He made the free throw to complete the 3-point play.
Less than a minute later, Showalter stole the ball from Southeastern Louisiana guard Dre Evans and collected his first assist on a feed to Jared Berggren, who finished with a game-high 19 points. Three minutes later, Showalter got another assist on freshman Sam Dekker's 3-point make.
* With under two minutes left in the game, Showalter rebounded a missed shot at the rim and brought it back down emphatically on a tip-jam attempt. Although he didn't score, he made a statement and both free throws after he was fouled by Jamaal James.
"I had a good attempt for a dunk and I thought I was going to get it," said the 18-year-old Showalter. "I was right there and the guy (James) gave me a two-handed shove in the chest. It felt good to get up there (above the rim). It was a lot of fun."
Showalter and James had earlier crossed paths at the opposite end of the floor with the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James trying to establish position on the block against the 6-2, 195-pound Showalter. Despite giving away so much height and weight, Showalter battled James on equal terms.
"Physically, he can bang," said UW assistant coach Gary Close. "He's not physically overmatched which a lot of times freshman are. He's strong, very competitive and tough. I really like his intensity. He just gets after it. He loves to play. He gets this little smile on his face and just goes about his business."
Any question on Showalter's redshirt status was answered at the 8:33 mark of the second half. That's when he entered Sunday's game for Ben Brust. The fact that the injured Josh Gasser was seated at the scorer's table to the right of the UW bench factored into the decision-making.
"Before Josh went down, I was planning on redshirting and just using this year to get better," admitted Showalter, a first-team All-State selection. Showalter averaged 22 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in sparking Germantown High School to a 28-0 record and WIAA Division I state title.
"I talked to Coach (Bo) Ryan the other day in his office," Showalter went on. "He said that with everything that's happened with Josh, he might need to use me. I told him if a couple of games in (to the season) and I don't get time, I might redshirt. But I'm ready to go now. I'm perfectly fine with this."
If Gasser, a two-year starter, had not been lost for the season with a knee injury - he had ACL surgery last week - Close pointed out, "The minutes might not have been there for him (Showalter), so it might have been a different decision. But there was no question he is physically ready to play."
Brust and George Marshall were the starting guards against Southeastern Louisiana. Traevon Jackson was the first guard off the bench. Showalter assumed the role of the fourth guard. "If I can get some minutes (this season)," Showalter said, "it's good experience for the next couple of years."
The rotation pattern is always subject to change depending on matchups or fouls or momentum. But in Sunday's first half, Ryan went eight-deep with Jackson, Dekker and Mike Bruesewitz coming off the bench to complement Brust, Marshall, Berggren, Ryan Evans and Frank Kaminsky.
Bruesewitz, who started all 36 games last season, returned to action sooner than many expected following a severe laceration to his lower leg. The season officially unofficially got under way, too, when he went diving to the floor during his 10-minute shift in the first half.
The Badgers will be able to go 10-deep with Showalter and Zach Bohannon, the Air Force transfer. Both played nine minutes Sunday. Both finished with five points. Both offer something different with their games and that flexibility should bode well against certain opponents.
Practices are definitely competitive due in part to the Zach Attack/Zak Attack. Close noted that Showalter was particularly aggressive Saturday. That was by design. "If we keep competing like that," Showalter said, "we're going to get the first team better and we're going to get better."
Spoken like a coach's kid. Showalter played for his dad, Steve, at Germantown. Steve Showalter, meanwhile, played for Ryan at UW-Platteville. Does father know best when it comes to Ryan?
"He gave me a lot of tips before I came here on what Coach Ryan is like," Zak Showalter said. "He told me to listen to what he has to say, and don't get too high or too low. Just play your game. My dad says coach has mellowed since he had him."
Showalter got this little smile on his face.
"Everything has happened so fast for me," he said. "I committed (to Wisconsin) as a walk-on. All of a sudden, I got a scholarship. All of a sudden, Josh is down and minutes are opening up and it was like, `Wow, I did not expect to be in this role this early in my career.'
"But it's all working out really well for me right now."