Nov. 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jared Berggren recognized that before he could shoulder more responsibilities on the UW basketball team, he needed to be able to “trust’’ his right shoulder again.
That has been the challenge for 6-foot-10 Berggren ever since his freshman year when he was injured diving for a loose ball in practice.
You can imagine his anxiety then in the first half of the 2010 season opener against Prairie View A&M when Berggren was hacked across his right bicep going up for a shot.
“It definitely hurt pretty good,” he admitted.
As Berggren was getting ready to take his free throws, he tried to loosen up his shoulder by rotating his arm in slow circles; not unlike a baseball pitcher coming off a torn rotator cuff.
At least he gave that appearance, which was alarming because he had undergone shoulder surgery in March following the UW’s loss to Cornell in the NCAA tournament.
“I had those free throws coming and didn’t know if I could shoot them or not,” said Berggren, who wound up making both attempts from the line. Later, he added a couple of baskets.
In his own mind, he might have felt like he had taken another step in his rehab.
“Learning to trust it (shoulder) again took some time,” he said.
Hit rewind to 2008.
That’s when Berggren opted to redshirt as a freshman. And that’s when his shoulder first popped out. Last season was pretty much of a wash-out. He played limited minutes in 19 games.
“It was something that bothered me quite a bit,” said Berggren, who set career records for points, rebounds and blocked shots during his high school career in Princeton, Minn.
“I tried to practice hard and play hard and my shoulder would pop out. And I’d be thinking about that instead of thinking about blocking a guy out and going for a rebound.
“I just became hesitant and tentative. It was tough.”
So was the rehab from the surgery.
“It took a lot of time and a lot of patience,” he said. “It was frustrating at times. I was six weeks or more in a sling, and totally immobilized. After that, we slowly started working the motion back.
“Eventually I got the strength back but it was a full six months before I was able to play again with the guys and actually go all-out. When the school year started, I was still getting used to it.”
Reconsider the chain of events and timetable.
For two years, or since initially being injured, he was tentative.
For six months, he had little use of his right shoulder.
So it really was a matter of trust.
“And knowing that it was going to stay solid and not hurt anymore,” Berggren said. “It’s taken time. But I think I’ve shaken most of the rust off. Now I feel pretty confident.”
The Badgers will open play in the Old Spice Classic here Thursday against Manhattan. Last Saturday night, Berggren played 13 minutes at UNLV, accounting for five points and four rebounds.
What does he see as his role with this team?
“It’s always changing,” he said. “You never know how each game is going to go. At UNLV, Jon (Leuer) and Keaton (Nankivil) got into some foul trouble in the first half and I stepped in and played.
“If teams have some big guys, I feel I can match up with them – just be another big body in the post, hit some open shots, and rebound and defend well.
“I’m still not sure where my minutes are going to be. For instance, in the North Dakota game, I didn’t play in the first half and I was kind of wondering myself if I was going to get in or not.
“I just have to stay ready mentally and contribute as soon as I get on the floor.”
So what is Jared Berggren thankful for on this Thanksgiving?
“So many things,” he said, listing his teammates and parents who are on this trip.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity to play basketball, it’s something every little kid dreams about. And I’m feeling healthy and I’ve got to be thankful for that, too.”