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Thursday, October 30, 2008

First Taste of the 2008-09 Badgers

Seventeen players. One set of eyes.

Those would be my eyes. At the annual Red/White Scrimmage, I wanted to keep an eye on all the players, attuned to both their ability on the court and their demeanor on the sidelines or in between plays. Easier said than done, however.

After attending the event last year, I knew ahead of time to temper my enthusiasm. With so many relatively new players though, I was holding out hope that at least of few of the newbies would bring a lot of energy to the scrimmage. In that sense, I was not disappointed. In a 72-67 win by the Red, there were some lulls in the action but enough to get excited about.

Seeing the team breakdown at the tip, I did not expect a win by the Red team (more on that below). The White team consisted of Landry, Krabbenhoft, Hughes, Gullikson, Jarmusz, Gavinski, Wilson, Evans, Markolf. Perhaps I am naive. The Red squad included Smith, Bohannon, Cain, Leuer, Nankivil, Berggren, Taylor and Valentyn.

I was impressed by the long-distance shooting by both sides in the first half. Some players forced shots as the game developed, but overall I would say 3-point shooting was over 40% for the scrimmage.

Before I delve into the player-by-player breakdown of the night, I had a few "badges" I knew that I wanted to hand out, including:

Most impressive: Keaton Nankivil
Most disappointing: Jon Leuer
Best moment: J.P. Gavinski blocking Jon Leuer's dunk attempt
Worst moment: By default, I'm going with the very end of the game when Nankivil could have capped off a Red victory with a fast break flush, but bobbled the ball, leading to a loose ball melee.
Most aggressive: Nankivil
Best defender: This is a biased opinion because I watched Jordan Taylor for most of the night, but he stuck with Trevon Hughes almost every step of the way.
Likely to redshirt: Tough call ... I really think Ian Markolf should take one, though Ryan Evans would not surprise me.

Marcus Landry :: #1
Compared to last year's scrimmage, Landry was much more active, which is great. He has good chemistry with the guards in the open floor. Getting Marcus out to a fast start this year would be a huge boost. Landry really runs the floor well for a "post" player, though he cannot be taller than 6'6". Quick decisions and overall aggressiveness were encouraging. Had a sneaky 20 points.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Converted a steal into a fast-break dunk to start the second half.

Morris Cain :: #21
In light of Flowers' absence, I though Cain would get minutes last season, but I was wrong. I will not be misled again. Cain did not do anything to stick out in my mind, except for getting a little chippy with Tim Jarmusz. He's the only current Badger who is left-handed.

Kevin Gullikson :: #43
Gully looked legitmately quicker, as we have heard. It did not translate into much during the competition, but he looked okay.

Joe Krabbenhoft :: #45
The things I noticed most about Krabby were not really basketball-related. We have heard about him taking Jordan Taylor with him to an elementary school, but he even slapped Taylor five on a missed free throw -- from the opposite team -- and wears the same shoes as Jordan. It's great to see a senior bond with a freshman that way.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: You know what you are getting with Krabby, but Joe did follow up his 3-point Shootout title with two treys. Ugly, but effective ...

Trevon Hughes :: #3
I am still concerned with his shot selection at times. I think Pop notched two airballs on the night. There was a point where Taylor was shaken up and Hughes smelled blood. He attacked by draining a 3-pointer and driving to the hole mercilessly, which I liked. On a positive note, I did not see turnovers from Trevon.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: One behind-the-back pass on a delayed break, that was not converted unfortunately.

Jason Bohannon :: #12
Got into a shooter's rhythm at least once during the night and drained several jumpers, finishing with about 13 points. Got picked off trying to split the D in a clock-winding-down situation. good facilitator as the lone scholarship upperclassman on the the winning team. That should tell you something. He did have trouble sticking with some of the wing players on the White team, which is actually a good sign for Wisconsin as a whole.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: I don't remember the occasion, but he had at least one sick feed inside for an easy hoop.

Wquinton Smith :: #2
Quick, but very tentative with the ball. Walk-on for a reason.

Brett Valentyn :: #15
This guy is really a nice player. But he's a step or two slow.

Tim Jarmusz :: #24
Made a couple of the worst turnovers of the night ... and he knew it. Not afraid to get physical as his episode with Cain proved. Nailed a trey as expected, but did not do much else.

Jon Leuer :: #30
As mentioned, Leuer had a tough night. At one point, he was shooting 2-for-13 and 0-1 on free throws. He is tall and long enough to get boards underneath, but had trouble finishing once he grabbed the rock. Leuer still looked fairly aggressive, but I think he has been a bit overhyped. Of course, that is judging just two practices basically. Leuer exhibited a soft touch from the paint. He misfired on several attempts from long range though. He is nowhere near ready on defense, but I still like his potential on offense.

J.P. Gavinski :: #44
I cannot see Jared Berggren getting minutes over Gavinski this season. That's not to say I'm sold out for J.P, but he looked more comortable out there. He lacks quickness, but has two years now under his belt. Capable of banging home the 17-footer.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Best moment of the night was when Leuer streaked down the lane and went up for an insane dunk from 3-4 feet inside the free throw line. J.P. rose up at the last second and totally denied the jam. Then he had the nerve to talk junk to Leuer, to which Jon responded by shoving J.P. out of his way. Stats credit Gavinski with a couple blocks, though he appeared to deserve credit for some of the blocked shots from the messy scrums.

Keaton Nankivil :: #52
Star of the show. Right off the bat he drilled a 15-footer and then went to work inside. Even made Landry look foolish on D by getting position and exploding to the rim. I have always been a Nankivil fan (even a "homer" after last year's scrimmage) but tonight he looked more confident than ever. When Bo Ryan alluded to some of the youngsters making a name for themselves in practice, now we know who. Keaton and Jordan are not afraid to challenge the juniors and seniors. They are the reason the Red team won tonight.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Nearly everything, no joke. He converted three-point plays with a soft touch, he pivoted around the senior into monster dunks, he played solid defense ... but the icing on the cake was when he caught a pass gliding to the hoop from the left side and Gullikson chopped at his arm. Nankivil was not deterred and threw down a two-handed slam that would have been an "and-1" in the NBA. Also notched a big-time rejection of someone's shot attempt in the first half.

Ryan Evans :: #5
Played the least; that does not necessarily mean a redshirt though. I noticed one nice move to the basket, but mostly a lot of pine time.

Jordan Taylor :: #11
Rock solid. Very impressive to see a freshman hold his own out there. Gave Hughes fits at times. Taylor is clearly not capable of scoring in the same way Hughes is, but knows how to post up in the swing offense. His defense was formidable and he played through what might have been a rolled ankle, that caused him to get burned a couple times. Notably, he recognized speed mismatches, burning J-Bo once and trying to take advantage of Krabbenhoft at another point (though nothing came of it).
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Taylor zipped a pass through traffic to a cutting Morris Cain to get an easy backdoor hoop. JT also locked up the game with a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left.

Rob Wilson :: #33
Showed a bit of defensive intensity. Did not get a lot of PT, perhaps due to the White team having nine players. Got to the hoop once from the wing for a nice easy basket.

Jared Berggren :: #40
Berggren did not appear to play with a ton of confidence, but he was able to run the floor effectively for a big man and finish some plays. I honestly do not expect him to play much this year, with Gully and J.P. ahead of him. But what do I know ...
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Used his quickness to get a baby hook over Gavinski in the second half. Looked like a go-to move towards the baseline that he has had for ages.

Ian Markolf :: #50
I'm seeing red. This classic big man appeared classicly gassed after one first-half stretch. Markolf made a couple buckets, but does not elevate at all. Dominated the Gatorade bottle during stoppages.

If you needed a reminder as to how competitive these guys are, look no further. From Hughes-Taylor and Nankivil-Landry to Gavinski-Leuer and Cain-Jarmusz, the new breed of Badgers showed a feistiness that can only mean good things for the future of Wisconsin basketball. Overall, I was much more impressed with this year's scrimmage than 2007's.

Of course, back-to-back 30-win seasons will bring out the optimist in anyone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update on Badgers Abroad

With the signings of Josh Childress and prep baller Brandon Jennings by European league teams, playing overseas was a hot topic this summer. Dozens of former college stars continue to pop up in professional basketball leagues throughout the Old World, in countries like Italy. It would make sense that former Badgers would get these same opportunities, now that the program is churning out quality players each year.

It was nice to see fan favorite Mike Wilkinson get mentioned in's preview of the Russian League as he tries to remain with Khimki despite an injury. As you might recall, Wilkinson gained Macedonian citizenship after college, which makes him potentially valuable in leagues where a limit is placed on the number of American players a team can have. Wilkinson has previously played well in the Greek leagues.

Since many of us will be checking out a new generation of Wisconsin players tomorrow night, how about a quick look at where last year's seniors are playing professionally this season:
  • Brian Butch - Jiangsu Nangang Dragons (China): After initally signing with a Spanish club, the Polar Bear is allegedly the highest-paid rookie in CBA history. Not bad. See what a master's degree can get you?
  • Greg Stiemsma - Oyak Renault Bursa (Turkey): Stiemsma seems to have landed in a nice situation with two other rookie Americans on his team. All three are playing significant roles for this Turkish team that moved up to D1 two years ago.
  • Michael Flowers - New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig (Germany): Not sure if Mike is still on the team or not. He has played in four games this season, with minimal impact. Flowers is not listed on the team's "current roster" anymore.
A couple of former Badgers are still going stronger than others overseas. I thought I would see if there were any new developments since some of those previous reports came out:
  • Jason Chappell is lighting it up in Austria, where is is averaging a double-double early in the year for the Gussing Knights.
  • It does not appear that Andreas Helmigk is still playing hoops in that league.
  • Kammron Taylor has moved on from Spain to Turkey and plays in the same league as Stiemsma now, with Kepez Bld Antalya.
  • Zach Morley didn't latch on in Spain for another season either. His whereabouts are unknown.
  • Same goes for Ray Nixon in the German Bundesliga, who does not appear on his former team's roster this season despite winning the league's slam dunk contest last year.
So while not everyone can have the good fortune or incredible talent of the NBA's Devin Harris or Alando Tucker, Kirk Penney is living the dream as well as any former Badger. As you probably know, Penney is a kiwi hero after playing for his homeland in Olympic and World Championship competitions since leaving Wisconsin. He was an All-NBL first-team pick in 2008 and is currently leading the New Zealand Breakers -- and the entire league -- in scoring at 28.3 ppg.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Media's Preseason Picks Are In

Wisconsin's Marcus Landry was named to the Big Ten's preseason all-conference team by the media this weekend, joining Manny Harris, Raymar Morgan, E'Twaun Moore and preseason POY selection Robbie Hummel.

It appears that Landry's Most Outstanding Player award from last season's Big Ten Tournament has helped distinguish him from the three other heralded upperclassmen returnees in Madison. Landry himself agreed. I am interested to see if the Goggled One can rise to the occasion.

Meanwhile, the media projects UW to finish third in conference play this season, behind Purdue and Michigan State. All three teams should be very solid this season, while the young'ns at Ohio State and Minnesota will determine whether the Big Ten begins its return to glory this season or next.

: : :

The people have spoken. The majority of Hoops Marinara readers prefer Keaton Nankivil over Jon Leuer to start for the Badgers. Nankivil earned 51% of the vote, compared to 35% for Leuer. Nankivil has been getting a lot of attention lately as the one who will fill Brian Butch's shoes initally as the fifth starter. Even Bo Ryan had a few encouraging words about Nankivil in his Wisconsin media day press conference [video] last week.

It will certainly be a group effort, however, including both a more fit (sober?) Kevin Gullikson and J.P. Gavinski -- like it or not. I would not be surprised to see Leuer end up with more minutes played than Nankivil either, as long as Jon can keep his back healthy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Things That Go Clang In The Night

The Night of the Grateful Red returned for its second incarnation last night at the Kohl Center. From missed layups and dunks in the first warm-up drill to a painfully developing slam dunk contest, the session looked every bit like the "first practice of the year" that it is.

Every year, I know this going in. Yet I still get that occasional twinge in my stomach, thinking "shouldn't these guys be better at this?" That is, until I get home and see similar contests across the league via the Big Ten Network's Midnight Madness special [highlights]. The fact is that all of these dunk contests are hard to watch.

This year's event did not include a scrimmage, so I was disappointed that we did not get to see any of the new players in action for the first time.

So on to the recap ...

This year's dunk contest field grew to five participants, including newcomers Ryan Evans and Rob Wilson. Keaton Nankivil got a nice dunk in after a try or two, but it was Morris Cain leading the way in round one. Rumors persisted that Evans was freaky athletic and that proved true as he topped Cain in the finals and capped the night off with an East Bay Funk-style dunk between the legs (after three or four tries, admittedly).

Prior to that, the seven contestants in the 3-point shooting contest displayed their skills behind the new white 20'9" arc. Jon Leuer struggled and his form still looks incredibly goofy. Frosh point guard Jordan Taylor handled himself well in his first performance on the new floor of the "Herb Garden." It was a great move to put Joe Krabbenhoft in this contest and believe it or not, he won it! We can only hope that is a sign of things to come. Maybe that has been the problem all these years -- Krabby is just too strong for the shorter 3-point line. Yeah, that's it ... too strong.

There was no way for Bo Ryan to top last year's dance video and I think they knew that. They tried to spice it up this time with an old school vs. new school dance-off between Bo and Marcus Landry that fell flat.

Despite adding cheerleaders, the whole dance concept is a little tired. However, it does give some individual flavor to each player as they are introduced. For example, Wquinton Smith is by far the best dance man on the squad. He could do Dancing With The Stars easily. I thought Jared Berggren, Tim Jarmusz and Brett Valentyn were awful. But then I saw J-Bo attempt to dance. Not pretty. Too timid. He is going to get grief from Bo all year long for that.

Final thoughts: Nankivil still looks like he should be able to pack more muscle onto that big frame of his. But after two seasons of waiting, maybe it's not going to happen ... While Wquinton was the same height as his dance team partner, Ian Markolf showed he was a legit 7-footer by kneeling next to his cheerleader and still edging her height-wise ... The cowboy hat during player intros might become an annual tradition. Last year it was Trevon Hughes, this time it was Krabby.

: : :

- This running the hill business has taken on a life of its own. At any rate, I look forward to seeing the Bo Ryan's best-conditioned team yet.
- Mike Wilkinson is out of action due to a knee injury, so back in town for the Penn State game, he explained how fanatic Greek basketball fans are compared to Wisconsin football fans. The craziest part of the article is wife Alexis telling how she used to get death threats from Michigan fans. Ah Wolverines ... stick to football.
- One of my favorite new blogs is Jerry Tarkanian's Shark Bytes for the Las Vegas Sun. If you followed college hoops in the late '80s or early '90s, this will be a hilarious retreat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Adding New Features

I am trying out some new features on the website, as well as reminding everyone of some older content:

  • I just added the new 'Followers' widget from Blogger. So if you read Hoops Marinara, do me the favor of adding yourself via the Readers section in the right-hand column. Hopefully it adds some value to the blog. Thank you kindly ...

  • The first poll has been added along the right-hand side as well, an enhancement that was looooong overdue. Predictably, the first question I pose to you involves Bo Ryan's starting lineup this season.

  • The recruiting sidebar has been cleaned up. As the Badgers officially welcome their freshmen quintet, so too must the Class of 2008 give way to the Class of 2009 atop the recruiting front. The Roster Origins Map that resides there has also been updated for the new season. (Now with more Wquinton!)

  • If you think the UW Video Spotlight shows the same videos over and over, you are wrong. I update the search criteria every week or two to showcase a different past or present Badger baller. So keep checking in.

Consider this a call to arms for those casual readers out there. If you know of a good link that is relevant to Wisconsin, the Big Ten, college basketball or recruiting that you think would be a good addition to the blog roll, go ahead and suggest it, either through an email or a comment on a post. Hopefully the new polls will push the site to become a little more interactive as well.

: : :

"Retired" prospects from the recruiting sidebar:
: : : Class of 2008
Signed Letters of Intent: 5
Jordan Taylor, Minneapolis [v]
Jared Berggren, Princeton MN [v]
Robert Wilson, Garfield Hts OH
Ian Markolf, San Antonio TX
Ryan Evans, Chandler AZ

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On the Stove Top: 10/9

The summer doldrums are behind us Badger fans. As the air turns crisp and the football team's fortunes sour, basketball has finally emerged again as a viable topic. And not just recruiting news either.

- One writer who has been fighting the good fight all summer long is Jeff Goodman, who touched on Wisconsin's returning experience (and lack thereof) in his column yesterday. I like reading Goodman over at Fox Sports because he offers college basketball content every day from all over the country. He did not get bogged down with hyping up high schoolers, but checked in even on low-major programs and presented their outlook on the coming season.

In Goodman's piece on the Badgers, he restates a fact that fans have known for so long we might have forgotten: Bo Ryan's squad has 11 sophomores or freshmen this year. In my eyes, this will make for an exciting year, because there is the stability of proven players but also the opportunity to see which one of the youngsters will surprise us all and contribute right away.

-, the new web offering from Capital Newspapers, is so cluttered and poorly laid-out that I usually avoid it. However, I did catch a piece this week about associate head coach Greg Gard.

Hearing about Gard's desire to head up his own program got me thinking about UW-Green Bay. As the Phoenix have seemingly gone in the wrong direction in the Horizon League over the past three season, grumblings about current head coach Tod Kowalczyk grow. If the slide continued and Kowalczyk got the axe, would Gard consider the position? My gut says that Gard will aim a higher than Green Bay, but you have to acknowledge how clearly at home Gard feels in the state of Wisconsin. Of course, this is all hypothetical at this point, but imagine the three Division 1 system schools in the state all running the swing offense.

- Night of the Grateful Red: Don't forget if you are in the Madison area, you can take a first look at the 2008-09 Badgers for free on Friday, October 17 at 7 p.m.

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

Poll: Who will win the Big Ten?

Poll: Who was Wisconsin's first-half MVP (thru 16 games)?

Poll: How Many Regular Season games will wisconsin win in 2009-10?