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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Pair of Badgers Get Some Respect

It looks like being a mature, likable, well-spoken, four-year player with big dreams does pay off.

On Monday, Converse signed Alando Tucker to a shoe contract worth at least one million dollars. So even though Tucker does not appear to be a lock to get drafted in the first round, he is already going to be one of the first athletes in his draft class to get paid (insert Ohio State joke here). That is simply unheard of in NBA circles. He joins Dwyane Wade as non-smoking, non-drinking basketball spokesmen for Converse, which is actually owned by Nike.

Even on his worst days this past season, Badger fans could tell that Tucker was the heart and soul of the Wisconsin basketball team because of his leadership on and off the court, and his interaction with teammates, coaches, fans and the media. It's nice to see a good person be rewarded for being just that -- a good person. Well, and a very good basketball player.

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Speaking of honors, Brian Butch was recently one of 30 college players invited to the USA team trials to be held July 12-14 for the 2007 Pan American Games. When I finally looked at the list of invitees, it reflected quite well on the state of basketball in the state of Wisconsin.

Along with Butch, two other players on that list hail from a Wisconsin high school. Washington State's Kyle Weaver is from Beloit and Marquette's Wesley Matthews played his prep ball at Madison Memorial. Only two other states can boast as much talent in the pool: Illinois and Maryland.

Of course, there is a difference between being invited to compete and actually being selected for the team. As has been mentioned on Badger message boards, Butch is one of only two centers invited to try out. When you think about it, isn't Brian Butch exactly the type of player USA Basketball would want in an international competition. Sure, Butch's athletic shortcomings are well-documented, but the guy can really shoot. I think he has a great shot at making the team, and that is coming from the self-proclaimed "Sports Pessimist."

As for Weaver and Matthews, though, the competition is a bit tougher. Weaver is still diversifying and strengthening his offensive game so he would have to make the team in a defensive stopper role. He's one of the better defenders on the list, but you'd expect the staff to select someone who could score more consistently. Matthews, on the other hand, does a lot of things well, but nothing great. The team will almost certainly have dead-eye shooters like Chris Lofton, Drew Neitzel and Jon Scheyer, in addition to some pure scorers. When you add in the necessary bangers and board men down low, a couple of true point guards and maybe one or two straight-up freak athletes, Matthews will likely be weeded out.

Fellow Golden Eagle Jerel McNeal would seem to have a better shot at the team, again because of his defense. In all, three players from Wisconsin colleges were invited to the team trials, a number matched by Washington (Wash/Wazzou) and Tennessee (Memphis/Tenn/Vandy), and surpassed by only -- you guessed it -- North Carolina (Duke/UNC/NC St.).

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Now I wish Tucker had gone to the NBA's Orlando Pre-draft camp, just to see his workout numbers. No surprise here: Mike Conley Jr. was the fastest guy in camp. Somehow they manage to rate the value of each category and concluded that Conley was the fourth-best prospect based on measureables. Carl Landry performed well and was rated fifth, mostly because he is wicked strong on the bench press (21 reps at 185 lbs. tied him for second most) and pretty quick too. The top dog according the ratings was Maryland's D.J. Strawberry, so take them with a grain of salt. I know you will.

Feel free to check out the body fat % on the future No. 1 draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks.

1 comment:

  1. Did you see Oden's numbers? Insane ...

    Awesome news on Tucker. I'm pretty shocked.


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