first_imgOutside the University of Wisconsin basketball weight room, deep in the Kohl Center, there is a board on the wall listing the Badger strength and conditioning records for players at each position. For example, there is a picture of Alando Tucker and his record 38-inch vertical leap, or Freddie Owens’ 300-pound bench press. That board could see some serious renovation in the coming months and years, as this year’s Wisconsin Badger team could be the most athletic to ever trot the Kohl Center floor.When the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team unveiled its 2005-06 squad to the public for the first time Oct. 13, one thing was immediately clear: this is not your grandfather’s Badger basketball team. Heck, this is not even your older brother’s Badger basketball team. Watching almost the entire roster participate in the team’s slam-dunk contest revealed just how athletic, how creative and how traditionally un-Wisconsin this group of players is. Call it a changing of the guards … and forwards, too.”I guess you can say we look more like a basketball team instead of just some big white guys,” junior forward Jason Chappell said.Gone are the Mike Wilkinsons, Clayton Hansons, Kirk Penneys, Mike Kelleys and Zach Morleys, replaced by seemingly a team full of Alando Tucker-esque clones.”I have watched this team for the last couple years, and I think this is probably one of the most athletic teams that we have had,” freshman guard Morris Cain said. “I think the group we have now [is] more young and running guys. They are ready to get up and down the floor and make the great plays and do everything fast.”Since the rebirth of the Wisconsin basketball program in 2000, when Dick Bennett’s squad made a run to the Final Four, the Badgers have generally been considered a defensive team that forces a deliberate pace on opponents that is uncomfortable for them. This year’s edition of the team has the athletes that could possibly cause Wisconsin to opt for an offense that is a little wider open.”Previous years, we have had tall guys who screen and we ran a slow offense, but this year, we’ve been running out a lot [in practice], and I’ve been talking to certain players and they have been saying that we’re going to run a lot this year. A new look,” Cain said.Chappell also believes that Wisconsin’s increased athleticism could lead to a more up-tempo Wisconsin team, though he refutes the notion that the Ryan philosophy is against picking up the pace of the game.”A lot of people think that Wisconsin is slow-down, half-court [style of offense], but Bo has never told us that we have to slow down in the half-court. If we can get the ball up in transition for a lay-up, we are free to do that. I think as far as being more athletic, you can see that a little bit more,” Chappell said, also adding that more full-court pressure could be instituted on defense this year.Although the Badgers will physically more resemble the North Carolina team that ended its season a year ago en route to a national title than its own 2004-05 team, don’t expect to see a wide-open run-and-gun team. Instead, simply expect a few more jaw-dropping plays and points in transition.”Just because we have faster guys, we still have to stay in our system. Bo knows basketball, and we have to stay within his system,” senior swingman Ray Nixon said.”It’s going to be the same tradition, but I think it is just going to be a step or two faster and more athletic,” Cain said.”There might be a few more plays where people are like ‘whoa’ athleticism-wise, but we’ll probably look the same,” Chappell said.Ryan himself was very quick to point out at UW’s media day that having players with great vertical leaps and who are blazing fast does not ensure they will be able to make athletic plays on the basketball court, where a bevy of factors — such as preparation and hand-eye coordination — come into play, and his players agree.”Being more athletic can allow you to do more things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be able to do them. You have to be smart enough to know when you can take advantage of a situation,” Chappell said. “But if two guys know the same thing, the more athletic guy is going to have the advantage.”At the very least, having a team full of great athletes will give the Badgers the ability to keep up a high energy level on offense and defense throughout the game, with a deep bench of electric athletes. “It’ll help in the rotation of subs,” Nixon said. “If guys can come in and bring the same energy and excitement that the other guys have, that is always a plus.”last_img

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