MADISON –Goodbye America, Bonjour Canada! Tuesday the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team will travel beyond United States borders for a five-game exhibition tour in Ottawa and Toronto.
Even though their first regular season game is over two months away, coach Bo Ryan and his staff are taking advantage of every opportunity to coach up a relatively young and inexperienced Badger squad.
“I know every opportunity you get to work with people – no matter what the sport is – you get a chance to watch them, film them, and we can always make it better,” Ryan said following Sunday’s practice. “Players should be that way too, they pick up a little nugget everyday.
“Most of them do.”
After graduating three frontline starters in Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, the Badgers are welcoming six freshmen to the program, all who are expected to see the floor during the Canadian exhibition.
“The freshmen have been working extremely hard,” Ryan said. “They’ll do some things where you go ‘oh good that’s why we recruited them,’ and then they’ll do some things where you go ‘yup they’re freshmen. We will see what they can do with the lights on and the score being kept and somebody else to play against.”
One of those freshmen is Nigel Hayes – 6-7, 215lbs, four-star recruit from Toledo, Ohio – who Ryan was quoted earlier this week calling “the real deal.”
“Physically look at him,” Ryan added. “He is more mature than most freshmen you see throughout the country. Now it’s a matter of his basketball skills, savvy, and IQ improving and figuring out how we do things.”
Senior Ben Brust chimed on the physicality of Hayes:
“It hurts when you run into him I can tell you that much,” he said. “I go up for a rebound and next thing you know I am under the backboard like ‘oh my goodness.’ He is a big kid. He is finding his way and that is why a trip like this is perfect. Get out there and get experience.
“These are going to be intense games. You can’t simulate that, as much as you try in practice it just isn’t a game, and this will be. I think it will be good for everyone.”
One player the trip will definitely be good for is junior guard Josh Gasser. Gasser – who missed the entire 2012 season with an ACL injury – was cleared for full contact two weeks ago and is expected to play eight to twelve minutes per game.
“For me to be able to go out there and play a little bit and be able to run up and down with these guys a few minutes here and there is going to be great,” Gasser said. “Just for the mental part of it, just feeling more confident and more comfortable.
“It is just really fun right now to be playing a little bit.”
As released by the UW athletic department the upcoming week for the Badgers will convene as follows:
Tuesday August 20th: Travel to Ottawa, Canada
Wednesday August 21st: Game vs. Carleton
Thursday August 22nd: Game vs. Ottawa
Friday August 23rd: Travel to Toronto, Canada
Saturday August 24th: Game vs. Jr. National Team
Sunday August 25th: Game vs. Ryerson
Monday August 26th: Game vs. A-Game Hoops
Tuesday August 27th: Travel home
Saturday’s game versus the Jr. National team will be played against “the older more mature guys,” as coach Ryan put it, because the under-19 players will already be back at their respective colleges.
“They can play,” Ryan added. “Some of these colleges, teams like Illinois and St. Louis, have lost to. Carleton, they’re not bad. They’re a lot better than they were ten or twenty years ago.
“Canadian basketball has improved a lot.”
St. Louis University lost to Carleton during the summer of 2011 in consecutive nights by finals of 80-56 and 78-73.
The international three-point line is longer than NCAA distance, a change of venue that sharpshooting Brust looks forward too:
“I love it because I’ll probably just go farther and farther back.”
The international shot clock is different as well, moving from 35 seconds to just 24.
“It’s amazing, basketball players will find the rim, whether it’s six seconds of 30 seconds,” Ryan joked. “All these guys can pretend they are in the NBA.”