While handing out Big Ten championship rings to his returning players earlier this week, University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Greg Gard also delivered a reminder.
“There’s more out there for you to get,” he said.
The Badgers officially started practice for the 2020-21 season on Wednesday afternoon and, by all accounts, it’s a group that appears hungry to pick up where it left off in March.
Senior point guard Trevor Anderson offered a glimpse of where the team’s mindset is at when he posted a picture on his Twitter account of the Badgers posing with the Big Ten trophy in the locker room at Indiana on March 7.
That turned out to be UW’s final game of the season and that backdrop helps explain the hashtag Anderson chose to include with the photo: #unfinished.
“We aren’t going to teleport back to March 7 and become that team right away,” Gard said. “We have to basically wipe the slate clean and start over.”
In his next breath, Gard all but admitted that it won’t require some elaborate sales pitch to convince his oldest players they have to move on from the past.
The team’s core features six seniors, a group that includes Anderson, D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Nate Reuvers, Micah Potter and Aleem Ford. Toss in sophomore forward Tyler Wahl, and UW returns seven of its top eight players from a team that won its final eight games to finish 21-10 overall and in a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten at 14-6.
“We know we’ve got to start this season like it’s a fresh one, like it’s a new one,” Trice said. “We can’t look back at the past and say we’re just going to pick up how we were at the end of last season. We have to have the same mindset that we had at the end of the season last year. So, just coming in with the same mindset, but knowing that nothing’s guaranteed, nothing should be taken for granted and we’ve got to come out and be hungry from the start and I think (Wednesday’s first practice) was a testament to that.”
The only significant departure from last season is wing Brevin Pritzl, and the De Pere native won’t be easy to replace because he provided, among other things, shooting and a high basketball IQ. The coaching staff often referred to him as the team’s glue guy.
But expectations are enormous inside and outside the program because of what is back: UW returns 79.7% of its scoring, 83.6% of its rebounding, 86.1% of its assists and 77.5% of its minutes from last season and welcomes a 2020 recruiting class that already has made an impression on the older players.
The Badgers will enter the season as one of the favorites to win a conference that once again should be loaded. UW hasn’t won back-to-back Big Ten titles since 2001-02 and 2002-03, Bo Ryan’s first two seasons.
“I think this group is mature enough to know we move on and you take the experiences — good, bad and everything in between — and you apply those to how you build this year’s team and the journey starts over,” Gard said. “Do we have a lot of experience? Yes. Have we gained a lot from last year? Do we have a lot of confidence and a swagger about us and believe that we can be really good? Yes. But you still have to go produce every day.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2019-20 season prematurely, it stopped the red-hot Badgers in their tracks just as the postseason was set to begin. At the time, Gard tried to get them to focus less on the missed opportunity and more on how they couldn’t have written a better script by ending an emotional season with a sensational stretch run.
While that sounded nice, it didn’t ease their pain.
“I don’t think I’ll ever necessarily be over it,” Davison said, “because it’s one of those things that you never really get closure on.”
In March, ESPN released the results of a simulated NCAA tournament that had UW winning it all as a No. 4 seed. While fans rejoiced, Davison said the computer model only made him feel worse.
“I woke up and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Davison said. “So that kind of flipped my mindset to, ‘All right, I’m done thinking about last year,’ because we want to make that a reality and the only way we can do that is by flipping the switch to maximizing what’s in front of us and not necessarily dwelling on the moments that we’ve missed in the past.
“We’re locked in, (with a) tunnel vision on what’s coming in front of us to hopefully achieve some of those goals that we didn’t have the chance to achieve last year, and having everyone back just adds more fuel to the fire.”
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2020 basketball scholarship recruits
6-2, 180, Guard
Detroit, Mich. (St. Mary’s)
Four-star recruit by ESPN … ranked No. 94 in the ESPN 100 for 2020 … standout at St. Mary’s High School is a two-time Class A All-State honoree in Michigan, earning first team honors in 2019 and honorable mention in 2018 … averaged 23.1 points and 5.1 assists per game during his junior season … averaged 22.5 points and 4.9 assists per game as a sophomore ... in AAU, member of EYBL where he excelled at the Nike circuit, averaging 13.5 points and 3.6 assists through his first six games.
Gard: “We are ecstatic to have Lorne join our Badger family. He’s the ultimate competitor, both on the court and in the classroom, and we can’t wait to begin working with him. It was evident early on that Lorne is exactly what we look for and he’s only continued to improve. Lorne plays at his own pace, always under control, giving his team whatever it needs in the right moments with a skillset that can turn from scoring guard to playmaker in an instant. He has a great ability to get the ball where it needs to be and can also create shots with his tremendous pull-up game. Lorne displays natural leadership, both by his extreme work ethic and also through his communication on and off the court. Lorne and his family are a pleasure to be around and represent everything that being a Badger is about.”
6-9, 205, Forward
Woodbury, Minn. (East Ridge)
Four-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals … ranked No. 88 in the ESPN 100 for 2020 … Carlson currently has 1,299 career points, 745 career rebounds, 109 career blocks, 115 career assists and 83 career steals, making him the top rebounder and shot blocker in East Ridge High School history … as a junior, led East Ridge to the Minnesota Class AA state tournament while averaging a double-double (16 ppg, 11.3 rpg) … two-time all-SEC conference player … an AP scholar with honor, Carlson is a member of National Honors Society with a 4.1 GPA.
Gard: “We are very excited to add Ben to our program. His commitment to academic excellence is extremely impressive, even on a national level. He has challenged himself year in and year out to become as well rounded a student as possible and he’s looking forward to continuing to develop at our prestigious university. On the court, Ben has a tremendously diverse skillset that should ultimately allow him to be effective in the post, off the dribble and from the perimeter as a shooter. His skills, combined with his great athletic ability, has us excited to begin working with Ben to help him reach his goals as a Badger.”
6-9, 210, Center
Eagan, Minn. (Eastview)
Three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals … his junior season, led Eastview High School to the Minnesota Class 4A state tournament while averaging 19.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, shooting 39% 3FG from beyond the arc … scored 630 points as a junior and 470 points as a sophomore giving him 1,100 career points entering his senior season … first-team South Suburban All-Conference in 2019 and second-team in 2018 … plays travel basketball for D1 Minnesota, the same program as current Badgers Nate Reuvers and Tyler Wahl.
Gard: “Steven has so many of the characteristics that we look for, both on and off the basketball court. He has excelled at a high level both on the court and in the classroom. From the first time we saw him, Steven has continued to grow and develop as a player. He has a great feel for the game and he will be able to utilize all those skills as he continues to develop. Steven has the ability to score both inside and out, which will add him to a long list of big men who have come through this program over the years. We are excited to add Steven to the Badger basketball family.”
6-4, 185, Guard
La Crosse, Wis. (Central)
Four-star recruit by Rivals … conference player of the year averaged 23 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists per game as a junior for La Crosse Central, earning unanimous first-team all-state selection and first-team all-conference honors … La Crosse Tribune Coulee Region Player of the Year in 2018-19 … as a sophomore, averaged 22.7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists per game and earned first-team all-conference and first-team all-state honors … along with brother, Jordan, helped lead Central to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament each of their three years on the varsity team, winning the state title in 2017 with current Badger Kobe King … on the football field, Davis is also a standout three-year starter at quarterback, passing for 6,572 yards and 56 touchdowns, while rushing for more than 2,000 yards and scoring another 34 touchdowns on the ground.
Gard: “Johnny is the ultimate competitor. He’s proven that on the basketball court, on the football field and in the classroom. Johnny’s ability to play and guard multiple positions is extremely valuable in today’s game. He brings a tremendous toughness and competitive spirit to both ends of the floor. His experiences as a high school quarterback will serve him well as he makes the transition to a collegiate basketball player. He has grown up watching Wisconsin Basketball and takes pride in wearing our colors. We’re excited to get to work with him and to help him reach his potential as a Badger in the years to come.”
6-4, 185, Guard
La Crosse, Wis. (Central)
Three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals … as a junior, averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals per game at La Crosse Central, earning first-team all-conference honors and named the team’s defensive player of the year … his sophomore season, averaged 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game, garnering first-team all-conference honors … along with brother, Johnny, helped lead Central to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament each of their three years on the varsity team, including a title in 2017 with current Badger Kobe King … on the football field, Davis is also an impressive wide receiver for the Red Raiders, posting 358 receiving yards with 5 TDs through three games before suffering a season-ending injury … hauled in 49 receptions for 873 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior.
Gard: “We are thrilled to welcome Jordan to our program. His commitment and work ethic on the basketball court and in the classroom is exactly what we look for in a Wisconsin student-athlete. Jordan brings a certain level of toughness to the basketball court that has been developed on the football field as a star receiver. He comes from a winning culture at La Crosse Central and knows what it takes to compete for championships. He has known Badger Basketball his entire life and his commitment shows how much pride he has in representing Wisconsin.”
Badgers coach Greg Gard discusses 2020 recruits
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