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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.


  1. Yes, excellent job. Now if you could just get into practices...


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