November 14, 2010

Badgers toying with big lineup

MADISON - Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil are pretty accustomed to playing with one another on the hardwood.

Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz are a couple of young guys looking to expand their playing time and roles entering their sophomore year.

Josh Gasser is a true freshman looking forward to logging his first minutes as a collegiate athlete later this afternoon.

Bet you never thought those five guys would be on the court at the same time working possession drills in practice, though.

"We had some guys going to class," Bruesewitz said. "It happened to be all of our small guys. We had an all 6-foot or above lineup or something like that."

Jordan Taylor, who is the unquestioned starting point guard, wasn't in the lineup because he was at class. Wilson, who's slowly recovering from a nagging hamstring injury, did not practice.

Wquinton Smith was getting a breather and sipping from a cup of Gatorade.

While a lineup featuring Gasser at the point, Bruesewitz at the two, Leuer at the three, Nankivil at the four and Berggren at the five seems unlikely, it's still something the coaching staff feels necessary to give a look.

"We're just trying to see who does what better," first-year assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "We're seeing who plays better with who and reward some guys, too, that have really played hard defensively. Mike has really done a great job defensively and brings a lot of energy.

"We looked at putting him in at the three spot a little bit. We're just trying to get that chemistry as early as we can and find out what's going to work better."

Bruesewitz, who admitted to playing the two-position during his time at Henry Sibley High School in the Minneapolis metropolitan area, enjoyed the look.

"We had a really big team in high school," Bruesewitz, who started the final of two exhibition games last week, said. "A lot of the times I got to either play point guard or the two man. It's a little different now because I only played that a couple of years. But it's nothing new, totally.

"It's okay. It's a little different. I don't know all the plays from the two spot, but it's alright. It's something different."

With a lack of relative experience at the guard position, particularly while Wilson rehabs his ailing hamstring, it wouldn't be shocking to see head coach [db]Bo Ryan go with a big lineup.

Whether it's that big remains to be seen. Even though it probably could be done.

"We don't have any real plodders," Paris said. "Mike moves his feet as well as anybody and all of our big guys do. If we ever switched off and were in a situation where one of the quote, unquote, bigs were on a smaller guy it's not really that big of a disadvantage.

"Especially considering their length."

With guys like Leuer and Nankivil, two guys with ridiculous wingspans, the Badgers have something that a lot of guard-oriented teams don't have: annoying length.

Just look back to last year when Leuer missed time with a broken wrist. The length, particularly around the rim, was totally thrown off and affected. Opposing players were able to get to the rack a bit easier and with less interference from UW defenders.

At least to start the year, the Badgers will have plenty of length and athleticism to go around.

"It helps defensively because it closes off some lanes," Bruesewitz said. "Trying to get into the paint isn't so easy and trying to pull on people that are 6-foot-8, or 6-foot-9 is not easy. So rebounding wise it really helps. If you get big guys crashing the glass you can get tips and guys can get their hands on the ball for offensive rebounds.

"It helps us offensively as well."

Even though that offensive help is something a young point guard running the "jumbo package" hasn't necessarily seen before.

"It was different without Jordan and Wquinton Smith out there," Gasser said. "It was definitely a change up but that might happen in a game here or there. We've got to get used to it and it was good for our team.

"It was different, but I think it was beneficial."

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