The 4,009 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball fans who attended the Red/White Scrimmage Sunday at the Kohl Center may have walked away even more angry at the NCAA than when they arrived.
Junior forward Micah Potter, whose waiver to be eligible at the start of the 2019-20 season was denied by the organization earlier this week, offered a glimpse of what the Badgers will be missing until he’s able to make his debut at the end of the first semester.
Potter had nine points and a game-high eight rebounds in help the White outscore the Red 24-22 over the course of two 10-minute sessions.
“He’s obviously a big body,” UW junior forward Aleem Ford said. “He’s physical. The biggest thing for me is he’s a leader, he’s vocal, he has some experience under his belt, so just having another presence like that is great.”
Unfortunately for the Badgers, they’ll be without Potter for the first 10 games barring a change of heart from the NCAA.
Potter sat out the entire 2018-19 season while transferring from Ohio State. He left the Buckeyes shortly before the start of the season, finished out the first semester at Ohio State and arrived at UW last December.
Transfers typically have to sit out a year after arriving at a new program, per NCAA rules. But a waiver filed on Potter’s behalf by UW argued that Potter shouldn’t have to sit out another semester with the Badgers because he didn’t play at all last season and has flourished academically at his new school. Potter even had letters of support from Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann.
An NCAA committee disagreed, however. As a result, Potter won’t be eligible to play until the Badgers host UW-Milwaukee on Dec. 21.
Potter, to his credit, has vowed to make the most of a bad situation. He said earlier this week that he’ll do everything in his power to make his teammates better by working hard in practice.
It was clear from the opening tip Sunday that he was treating the scrimmage as if it were a real game.
“Oh my goodness, it’s been a long time coming,” Potter said. “I’ve been waiting for a year to play and even though it was against ourselves, it still felt really good to get out here on the main floor in the Kohl Center and perform.”
Overall, the scrimmage was about what you’d expect from a team playing against itself in mid-October: Mostly ugly.
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The Badgers had practiced only once in the Kohl Center main gym due to the ice being down for UW men’s hockey practices. That may have been one explanation for an awful shooting performance.
The teams combined to shoot 27.2% overall from the field and 12.5% from 3-point range. Junior guard Brad Davison (10 points) went 2 of 4 from beyond the arc and Potter was 1 of 2; the rest of the Badgers were a combined 0 of 18.
There were also a combined 16 turnovers.
“We’ve got work to do,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “It was choppy, which I expected it would be. Too many jump shots at times, too many turnovers. But we’ll clean that stuff up. I like how hard they played. I figured defense would be ahead of our offense, which it is.”
One encouraging sign was the play of Ford, who finished with a game-high 11 points. UW will have to survive with a thin frontcourt until Potter returns, so it’s imperative that Ford takes a big step now that he’s in his fourth season in the program.
Ford didn’t shoot the ball well from the field, going 1 of 9, but he drew seven fouls and went 9 of 10 from the free throw line. His only made field goal came after a sweet spin move to the basket.
“What the coaches have been talking to me a lot about,” Ford said, “is being more aggressive when I get in the post and finishing towards the rim and just finishing toward the basket.”
Nate Reuvers struggled with his shot, missing all eight of his attempts, but Gard said the junior forward would bounce back. Plus, part of Reuvers’ troubles could be attributed to the fact he was being guarded most of the time Sunday by Potter.
“He’s a physical presence,” Gard said of the 6-foot-10 Potter. “More than anything, he’s got the experience. He’s played two years in this league, so he understands the day in and day out operations of playing at this level. He’s helped us already, just in the locker room and practice.”
Until Potter can help in actual games — and even when he’s allowed to finally play — his motto is simple:
“Play hard, play physical, rebound the ball and be a good teammate,” he said.