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Badger hoops headed to New Zealand

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Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, June 29, 2017

Greg Gard's enthusiasm was palpable.

 

As Gard waited to hit the links at University Ridge rather than the practice court at the Kohl Center, his mind was on preparing Wisconsin for the 2017-'18 men's basketball season.

 

The topic of conversation: UW's trip to New Zealand and Australia, set for Aug. 14-24.

 

“There couldn't be a more optimal time to take this kind of trip,” Gard said Tuesday at the Wisconsin Legends Golf Outing. “The No. 1 thing that jumps out is chemistry, the bonding and the time you have together is so precious. You can't manipulate or you can't manufacture that.

 

“You just to invest the time and go through the process.”

 

Gard, who has compiled a 42-18 record since replacing Bo Ryan, is embracing the challenge of replacing four senior starters who helped UW win 115 games, reach the Sweet 16 four times and the Final Four twice.

 

Gard and his staff must build a competitive team around redshirt junior Ethan Happ by identifying those ready for expanded roles and incorporating redshirt freshman Aleem Ford and three freshmen into the mix.

 

The players began summer workouts last week and the trip allows an additional 10 practices.

 

“We can approach it like fall camp,” Gard explained. “We're doing drills that we typically wouldn't do until October. We're doing them now because we have to lay so much of the ground work because we have to play games.”

 

Every player on the roster can travel and play in the games, two in New Zealand and three in Australia.

 

“I'll experiment with all kinds of different lineups to let them use this time to develop and grow,” Gard said.

 

According to Gard:

 

Guard D'Mitrik Trice, who played in all 37 games as a freshman last season, appears physically stronger.

 

The 6-foot-8, 208-pound Ford, who honed his game while working on the scout team last season, is intriguing.

 

“I think the potential there is immense,” he said. “How fast can he adjust to the physical play every day? He is still young.”

 

Gard has seen improvement from junior forwards Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen and Andy Van Vliet, each of whom saw minimal playing time last season.

 

“They don't see anybody in front of them now,” Gard said, referring to the departure of Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown. “It is their time to take that step forward. Talking about it is one thing. Show me.”

 

Gard's most pointed comments came when asked about Van Vliet. The 7-footer missed the 2015-'16 season after being declared ineligible by the NCAA and last season played a combined 48 minutes in 14 games.

 

“I think it was a very eye-opening experience for him for two years to really understand what the culture is like,” Gard said. “We have high expectations every day and not just three days a week or two days a week. You have to do it every drill, every day.

 

“I have sensed a change in him. Time will tell. The proof is in your production but I have sensed a change in him over the last three or four months.

 

“He has got a look in his eye: 'OK, I'm not the victim anymore. Look in the mirror and let's take some responsibility for either our ascension or lack thereof.'

 

“Hopefully there is a trend in the right direction. We'll see. I'll learn a lot more over the next eight, nine weeks.”

 

The three-person freshman class of Kobe King, Brad Davison and Nathan Reuvers has impressed so far, though it is too early to tell how much each player can offer in 2017-'18.

 

“I love the way we're coming together,” Gard said. “Just the togetherness, the energy that is there. They are excited. The young guys have jumped right in. It is a great group that understands what we are about.

 

"Physically, Davison and King are beyond freshmen. So it is just a matter of them getting used to how we do things every day.

 

“I'm sure they'll be an exhausted group when we get back August 24th but we're going to have a much better feel for where we are at after Australia.”

 

MADISON – Greg Gard's enthusiasm was palpable.

 

As Gard waited to hit the links at University Ridge rather than the practice court at the Kohl Center, his mind was on preparing Wisconsin for the 2017-'18 men's basketball season.

 

The topic of conversation: UW's trip to New Zealand and Australia, set for Aug. 14-24.

 

“There couldn't be a more optimal time to take this kind of trip,” Gard said Tuesday at the Wisconsin Legends Golf Outing. “The No. 1 thing that jumps out is chemistry, the bonding and the time you have together is so precious. You can't manipulate or you can't manufacture that.

 

“You just to invest the time and go through the process.”

 

Gard, who has compiled a 42-18 record since replacing Bo Ryan, is embracing the challenge of replacing four senior starters who helped UW win 115 games, reach the Sweet 16 four times and the Final Four twice.

 

Gard and his staff must build a competitive team around redshirt junior Ethan Happ by identifying those ready for expanded roles and incorporating redshirt freshman Aleem Ford and three freshmen into the mix.

 

The players began summer workouts last week and the trip allows an additional 10 practices.

 

“We can approach it like fall camp,” Gard explained. “We're doing drills that we typically wouldn't do until October. We're doing them now because we have to lay so much of the ground work because we have to play games.”

 

Every player on the roster can travel and play in the games, two in New Zealand and three in Australia.

 

“I'll experiment with all kinds of different lineups to let them use this time to develop and grow,” Gard said.

 

According to Gard:

 

Guard D'Mitrik Trice, who played in all 37 games as a freshman last season, appears physically stronger.

 

The 6-foot-8, 208-pound Ford, who honed his game while working on the scout team last season, is intriguing.

 

“I think the potential there is immense,” he said. “How fast can he adjust to the physical play every day? He is still young.”

 

Gard has seen improvement from junior forwards Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen and Andy Van Vliet, each of whom saw minimal playing time last season.

 

“They don't see anybody in front of them now,” Gard said, referring to the departure of Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown. “It is their time to take that step forward. Talking about it is one thing. Show me.”

 

Gard's most pointed comments came when asked about Van Vliet. The 7-footer missed the 2015-'16 season after being declared ineligible by the NCAA and last season played a combined 48 minutes in 14 games.

 

“I think it was a very eye-opening experience for him for two years to really understand what the culture is like,” Gard said. “We have high expectations every day and not just three days a week or two days a week. You have to do it every drill, every day.

 

“I have sensed a change in him. Time will tell. The proof is in your production but I have sensed a change in him over the last three or four months.

 

“He has got a look in his eye: 'OK, I'm not the victim anymore. Look in the mirror and let's take some responsibility for either our ascension or lack thereof.'

 

“Hopefully there is a trend in the right direction. We'll see. I'll learn a lot more over the next eight, nine weeks.”

 

The three-person freshman class of Kobe King, Brad Davison and Nathan Reuvers has impressed so far, though it is too early to tell how much each player can offer in 2017-'18.

 

“I love the way we're coming together,” Gard said. “Just the togetherness, the energy that is there. They are excited. The young guys have jumped right in. It is a great group that understands what we are about.

 

"Physically, Davison and King are beyond freshmen. So it is just a matter of them getting used to how we do things every day.

 

“I'm sure they'll be an exhausted group when we get back August 24th but we're going to have a much better feel for where we are at after Australia.”



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