MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin men's basketball begins regular season play today when Long Beach State comes to the Kohl Center. A season ago, the Badgers won a school-record 31 games en route to an outright conference championship and Big Ten tournament championship.
BadgerBlitz.com had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming season, the freshman class, and UW's new signed recruits with assistant coach Howard Moore. The following is a transcript of that interview:
The season is about to start, what have your impressions been so far in practice of this year's team?
Moore: They're doing pretty good. I'm really excited about the opportunity that we have and the personality that we put on the floor. They're doing a pretty good job. With the two exhibition games out of the way, now we can really get down to doing what counts and playing the games that are actually going to be on our record. It's exciting and it will be really interesting to see who steps up and when and how we do it as a group.
You talked a little bit about the personality of the team. Over the past few years it's been a team led by veterans. This year it still is, but there are also a lot of young guys.
Moore: That's exciting as well. You know, you just never know. I mean, several years ago, you saw a young Alando Tucker out there trying to figure out how to do some things, a young Brian Butch. Now, those guys are on and moved on in their lives. Now we've got veterans in Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft and Jason Bohannon.
Now you're starting to see those guys going to the forefront of our program. It's all a matter of the young guys being quick learners and good listeners. So for the most part I think we've got an opportunity to do some good things whether we're a so called veteran team or a young team or somewhere in between. We've got players and I think our players have the ability to do some quality things and we want to get a lot of things done this year.
Talking more about the younger guys, how have they adjusted to the college game, specifically the swing system?
Moore: It's a process, but I think what we have is when the guys get here in the summer time, and that includes the freshmen, in their pick-up games, they're running it. So, they got older guys teaching them during the summertime, which is big. That's how you know you've got a good program rather than a good team every other year or so. Because we have older guys that teach in the times that we can't do it, we're not allowed to do it.
So the summertime is big. It just gives those guys an opportunity to be teachers and let the young guys understand how we do things, not just what we do but how we do it. That's a big part of the process for them.
Do you use that aspect a lot during recruiting? To say, 'hey, we have a lot of older guys that are willing to help you learn the system and ease your transition into the college game.' A lot of schools have guys coming in for one-and-done careers, but that doesn't really happen a lot here. Do you use that at all in recruiting?
Moore: It's not emphasized, but it is mentioned. We want guys that want to be here for the right reasons. It's nice to have guys that are talented enough to go on and play at the next level, but we want to make sure that guys are here for the long haul. If you're here to get a degree and to work towards that, then you have that mindset.
Obviously if that's a goal of yours to go into the NBA, we're not going to stop you and we want that for our players. But, for the most part, we want them to be realistic about being a team situation and being a program where it's not about me, it's about the other guys in the locker room that's with me. As long as we have selfless guys and guys that want to do for their teammate, then we're very fortunate that way. That's the type of program we want to continue to have.
Do you think that's kind of a unique program?
Moore: I think it is unique in the sense that we do have guys that don't think about themselves. But a lot of programs can say that, but the proof is in the pudding for us. I think for the most part, we've got guys that really care about wearing that Wisconsin jersey and really care about this university in every facet of their lives. That means a lot to the guys and it means a lot to the program and the coaches.
Over the course of practice, have you guys figured out a rotation at all?
Moore: It's always tough when you're looking at, it's very early right now. We're going to start our first game Sunday but right now I think we are starting to form a group of guys that understand what's going on. Like I mentioned, we got young guys that are quick learners and good listeners. They'll figure out a way to get out on the court. It's starting to formulate but there's still some openings. As coach said, I'm still looking for tryouts. I'm still trying to see who's ready to fill those spots. So we'll see.
Could a guy like Morris Cain be one of those guys?
Moore: Sure, I mean, Morris is, I mean, you've seen times when coach threw Tanner Bronson out there in certain situations. Mo's been here, he's paid his dues. Kevin Gullickson the same situation, you know. You never know. Those guys have to be ready on a daily basis and I think they are.
Going back to the younger guys, has any one of them stood out above the rest?
Moore: Not really. I think as freshman they all go up and down a little bit. Some guys look more prepared than others. It's just a situation where you're looking for them to show some consistency. As freshmen, they're not going to do that right away. But you want the effort to stay there, you want them to continue to work at a pace equal to the older guys. That's never been an issue, we've never had that problem. We're really happy about how the guys are coming and the potential that they all have.
The recent news of Ryan Evans taking the redshirt, do you think that is a wise move for him?
Moore: I think it is. He and I talked about it a little bit and as a program we don't make our guys do it, it's their decision. But, he asked me what I thought and for a player that redshirted not too long ago, I just told him about what was good for me and why I did it. He understood that and he did it. But he's his own person. His situation is different from Howard Moore as a player.
So, I think he looked at all the positives and said, you know what coach there's not too many negatives at all, if any. I look at him as a guy his fourth or fifth year just being an unbelievable role for this team. Early on, I think it's just a lot of good things. With guys like Joe Krabbenhoft and Tim Jarmusz and guys that are ahead of him right now obviously and guys that are more mature, it will be tough to get minutes at time.
So, why lose that year when you can use it as a year to get better and to grow and advance as a player and a person and get those academics shored up real well. The sky's the limit for Ryan.
Is he still growing?
Moore: I think so. He doesn't have any facial hair so that's always a very good sign. But, yeah, he's hungry. He's a kid that's very hungry and very driven and he's very goal-oriented. He's the type of guy I can see really flourishing in the redshirt year. Four of five years down the line just really saying hey, I'm glad I did this and the proof is in the pudding. I think we'll see that.
Just watching Jason Bohannon in the exhibition games and the red-white scrimmage, it seems he is more comfortable handling the ball.
Moore: Oh, he's always been a good ball handler, but as far as decision making and making plays, he's just really gotten better over the years doing that. You saw a lot of that last year in certain situations, like the Texas game, when Trevon Hughes went down with the injury.
Other times during the season, where J-Bo really stepped up and made great plays and just did a good job with the basketball, not just shooting it. That's what coach Bo Ryan always preaches about being the complete player and not just being one-dimensional. I think he's made that transition and he's done a very good job with that.
How do you feel about the two guys, Mike Bruesewitz and Diamond Taylor?
Moore: I spent a lot of time with Diamond Taylor obviously and Diamond's a kid that obviously, as he gets stronger and gets a little older, I think he's going to be a really good player. He's played for a very good high school coach, a legend in Gene Pingatore for three years and now he's got a very unique situation in playing for his dad at Bolingbrook and Rob Gross is a very good coach as well. It's just a kid who's really going to be prepared mentally and fundamentally when he comes here and plays for us.
Then Mike Bruesewitz is a kid that's just very aggressive and has a lot of upside and just a great kid. He gets better every time he steps on the floor. With those two guys coming in the fold, it's a really good class. It's not going to be one that's going to light up the rating board, but we don't worry about that.
We know what fits what we want to do and the type of guys that we want to have around us. Those two guys exemplify what that is. They're just hard working kids from great families and they're going to be great assets to this program.
Does Brusewitz have a little Krabbenhoft in him?
Moore: Well yeah, you've heard that comparison a lot. He's just a guy that's not afraid of contact and he's very aggressive. He's a very good shooter, I think he's really improving on that. He's a very good athlete, too. He's a deceivingly good athlete. There are a lot of similarities with him and Joe, but I think people are going to remember Mike for being what he is. He's going to leave his own stamp on this program.
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