MADISON - Since opening his college career with a 21-point, nine-rebound outburst against Prairie View A&M, freshman Josh Gasser has slowed down.
Though the stat book says he averages seven points per contest, the truth of the matter is that the Port Washington (WI) native has only mustered 5.6 points per game outside of the season opener. Not bad for a true freshman, but not quite what his collegiate debut suggested.
Maybe it's the fact Gasser was starting to wear down, or grind to a halt, with the overload of practice, exams and exhaustion. Or maybe it's just him settling into his role. He still averages nearly 27 minutes per game, doesn't turn the ball over, logs some steals and corrals more than four boards per game.
He's very effective while on the floor. It's just not coming through his scoring.
As the Badgers prepare to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule, BadgerBlitz.com took some time to catch up with the freshman guard. The following is the transcript of a conversation had with Gasser.
Was this layoff needed? Were you kind of hitting a wall at all?
Gasser: Yeah, it was nice. Kind of playing all those games, it wears you down sometimes. Getting a couple of days off and getting to focus on school and get your schoolwork done (was nice). We still had practice, but it was more of conditioning and getting shots up. It was nice to kind of get back into a rhythm and get your confidence back up again so we can get ready for Big Ten season coming up.
When did you guys start scouting Coppin State? Has it been within the past couple of days?
Gasser: Yeah, today (Tuesday) was the first full day that we scouted them. Yesterday we went through them a little bit and tomorrow we'll watch film on them a little bit to get ready for them. They're a good team that stuck with Connecticut pretty well. We know we're going to have a tough one.
Tell me about that game at Marquette. It probably wasn't the best game you've had statistically, but you were making plays. Are you starting to feel like you're maybe becoming a playmaker?
Gasser: Yeah, definitely. I don't really care about stats and nobody on this team really does. As long as you're out there playing good defense, getting rebounds and getting your hands on ball and not turning the ball over, so I'm just trying to make plays for my team. A lot of times it's not the flashy plays or scoring points or dishing out assists. I'm out there just playing hard and helping out my team any way I can. That's what most guys are doing.
Were you trying to foul the guy at the end of the Marquette game?
Gasser: No, I wasn't trying to foul him, but I knew if I would have fouled him it wouldn't have been a huge deal. I was just trying to make an aggressive play and I just stepped out there and stuck my arm out and got a piece of the ball. If I fouled him it wouldn't have been a big deal. But at that point of the game you can't really call that. It wasn't like it was a blatant foul. I think it was the right call.
It worked out pretty well for you. I guess you can say that now.
Gasser: Yeah, that's true. I wouldn't have been surprised if he called it but at that stage of the game the refs aren't going to want to decide it on that.
Talk about the student part. What has the first semester been like and are you done with finals?
Gasser: Yeah, I've got one tonight and then I'm done. I had two previously. It's been pretty tough. Going to class in between lift and practice is always tough and getting all your schoolwork done after practice is tough, too. But I'm kind of used to it now. At first it took a little getting used to, but coming in I expected that. It wasn't like a huge shock to me. It's gone really well and I hope it does next semester, too.
Are you feeling pretty good? Are your legs there?
Gasser: Yeah, definitely. I've kind of got everything back under me. All of our guys are kind of getting healthy. This past week has been good for guys to get all the nicks and bruises out. We're definitely all playing pretty well right now and hopefully it will show against Coppin State.
When you look at some of these other guys on the court and you see Jon Leuer shooting 50 percent from downtown, are you impressed with that?
Gasser: Oh yeah, definitely. We've got 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 guys in Keaton Nankivil, Jon and Jared Berggren when they shoot it you know it's going in pretty much every time. That's impressive. When you've got big guys that can do that it makes it easier for everyone else, especially guards. Some of the guards like me, Rob Wilson, Tim Jarmusz and Ben Brust don't take that many shots. When we do, we've got to take advantage of it. We're starting to kind of do that a little bit more. When we do that, we'll be a real dangerous team.
Which one of those three are the best from downtown, would you say?
Gasser: Man, it's hard to pick. They all have their games. Sometimes Jon will make four straight. One game he scored the first nine points of the game just bang, bang, bang. It just comes natural to him and Keaton as well. If they're open they're going to make it every time. It's hard to pick one.