February 13, 2009

Berggren takes redshirt, prepares for next season

MADISON, Wis. - At the beginning of the season, Wisconsin freshman Jared Berggren was undecided in regards to using his redshirt option. Now, with only six games left in the regular season, the big man has decided it would be best to use the redshirt to further develop his game after not logging a single minute of playing time this year.

At the conclusion of Thursday's practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the Minnesota native and discussed the season and his improvement. The following is a question and answer with Berggren.

We are pretty far along in the season right now, how would you say you are progressing?

Berggren: I've been doing extra workouts and things like that just trying to improve everyday in practice. I feel like I'm getting more accustomed to the way they play and the physicality of the game and everything at this level. I feel like I'm progressing and definitely getting myself ready for next year. That's what it's all about for me not, just preparing myself for next year and trying to get ready to contribute to the team.

So it has been determined that you are definitely going to take the redshirt this year?

Berggren: Yeah.

What was the thought process behind making that decision?

Berggren: Yeah, like I said before, I was just kind of playing it out and see where it goes. This is just kind of how it went. As we got farther along in the season Kevin Gullikson started stepping up more and filling in for the next spot as a post player. Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer kind of secured their spots and just kind of cemented the lineup that way. Things just didn't work out for me to really fit into the rotation this year. So, I just made the decision that would be best. Talking with coach Greg Gard and everything that would be best for me to just take the redshirt and prepare myself for next year.

You mentioned some of the older guys, what have you been learning from these guys by just playing with them everyday in practice?

Berggren: I mean there is just all kinds of stuff you can learn from them. I think Kevin's work ethic has just been great. He wasn't so much into the lineup earlier this year and he's kind of been up and down with that. He comes to work every single day. He does everything coach asks of him, making hard cuts, taking charges, defensively he just comes to work every day. I think just learning from his work ethic is just the biggest thing that I can take and try to use in my game to prepare myself and earn my spot.

Down here at the end of practice, it looked like you were working on some footwork stuff. How tough is that to adjust to from the high school game to the college level?

Berggren: It's definitely an adjustment especially for big guys. The main thing is the speed of it and the physicality of it. You got to have your feet under you and you got to have a solid base. You got to be quick too, you can't just power through everybody. You got to be able to slide, keep your balance and react quickly. We've been doing drills, especially game days. Since during the game I'm obviously not playing, I can't take it as a day off. So I'm doing extra workouts, extra lifts. After practice and things like that too, we'll do some different post drills just trying to keep improving.

You've talked about how hard you've been working, from the first day of practice to today, how would you say you've improved?

Berggren: I think just getting used to the game. It's obviously so much different from high school. I think just getting comfortable out here with the speed and being more aggressive as you get more comfortable and playing the way I know I can play. Instead of being tentative, I'm being aggressive after rebounds, getting physical with guys and just playing hard.

You just saw Marcus Landry go over the 1,000-point mark. As a big man, and knowing that touching the post is a staple of the swing offense, how exciting does that make the future for you?

Berggren: That's absolutely exciting. That's a big reason why I chose Wisconsin in the first place. Coach Bo Ryan's system is a perfect fit for big guys. I feel like I fit real well, you know, being able to step out a little bit and also play inside. Having all those post touches, you just got to love it as a big guy. It gets you mouth watering, I'm getting hungry to play next year. I'm excited.

When you look back as some of the bigs that played here, like Brian Butch and Mike Wilkinson, you notice that they were able to hit that jumper. How much emphasis have you placed on your mid-range shot and shot around the perimeter?

Berggren: Yeah, I work on that a lot. Mid-range, even out to three, I think I'll be able to fit in well with the swing system, you know, knock it down from outside and bang inside.

I know you won't be playing on Saturday, but with Game Day coming to town, how exciting is it to be a part of that?

Berggren: It's going to be a blast. Everyone around campus is real excited and obviously we're real excited. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's great to get that national recognition at Wisconsin with the things we built up here the last few years. Now for me to step in and be a part of that, it's a lot of fun.

You kind of hinted at it earlier, but when you were in high school, did you go up against many guys that are your size?

Berggren: Guys my size were pretty rare to come by. There were a few, but obviously nothing like here. It was rare to play them and with AAU there was a little bit. But AAU is a lot different, the way they play is a lot more guard oriented than what we do here. Playing here has been different than really anything I've done before as far as going against big guys and playing in the system. Just learning from it and getting more comfortable with it and just improving.

Is that size difference one of the toughest things to get used to?

Berggren: Yeah, that's the first thing that kind of pops into your mind. In the Big Ten everybody's got big bodies, everyone's got some good big guys that can rough you up down low. That's what you got to get used to.

*Bonus*: Coach Howard Moore on Berggren's progression:

"I think he's doing a great job. I think he's really starting to get comfortable with his surroundings and understanding how physical you got to play at this level and how demanding it is especially as a post player. Hearing coach Ryan and all the other coaches yell at the other big guys that are playing a lot of minutes, the thing you got to take from it is, okay, what is he yelling about? What is the message behind each conversation? The thing that he has to keep in mind is that this isn't an off year. It's a year to get better mentally and physically and understand what's expected of you for the next four years moving forward. I think he's got a great future ahead of him and it's going to be fun to see him progress and grow in this program.

Have you seen him progress during this season so far?

Moore: Yes I have. I think he's done a good job, he's getting better everyday. That's what you want.

Has his footwork been improving?

Moore: I think its that, I think it's the rebounding, the defense and the scoring touch. I think he's starting to get a feel of how to play with big bodies. In high school, he didn't have a lot of big bodies to play against until he got into the AAU system. Now he's in this division one, Big Ten level and I think he's starting to get used to playing with big bodies and we're seeing that on a daily basis.

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