Badger freshman Uthoff among early candidates to help fill forward void

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, October 28, 2011
— If Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan wanted a neon sign hung outside the UW men’s basketball offices he’d likely choose something succinct:

Opportunity available.

With three frontcourt starters gone from the team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 last season, playing time is there to be won.

And one of the early front-runners to help fill the void created by the departures of Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz might be a surprise.

The player is freshman

forward Jarrod Uthoff, a

6-foot-8, 200-pounder from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“He will play at the University of Wisconsin, and he’ll play early,” Ryan said emphatically earlier this week. “He is a player. Better than expected. But don’t tell him I said that.”

How well has Uthoff performed during the first week of practice? Ryan compared Uthoff’s learning curve to that of sophomore guard Josh Gasser, which is high praise.

Remember that Gasser started 30 games last season and averaged 5.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He also recorded the first triple-double in program history.

“He is picking up things like Josh did last year,” Ryan said. “Coaches like good listeners, fast learners. And he is extremely conscientious.”

How much Uthoff contributes this season is one of many intriguing questions as UW enters its 11th season under Ryan.

As opponents ponder ways to slow senior guard Jordan Taylor, here are some other questions to ponder about UW:

Is junior forward Jared Berggren ready for a prime-time role? Berggren, 6-10 and 235, is comfortable shooting from the perimeter. However, it is his low-post game that could offer a different dimension. His footwork in the post is excellent and he has several moves.

One issue he must address is avoiding fouls. He averaged one foul every 5.4 minutes last season.

“You could say it’s my time now,” he acknowledged. “I’ve waited my turn behind Jon and Keaton. It’s fun to have a little pressure on you, more expectations, and not just hoping for minutes but really expecting minutes and expecting to contribute. I’m ready.”

Can junior forward Mike Bruesewitz replicate his play of last March and extend it over the course of an entire season?

As good as Bruesewitz was in three NCAA Tournament games (8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game), his overall numbers were more modest. He finished at 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Bruesewitz acknowledged he deferred to his older teammates last season but is ready to lead this season.

“I had a good postseason,” he said. “But I think I can take it up another level and be even more than what I was in March.”

Will Ben Brust provide scoring, energy? The sophomore guard can shoot from the perimeter, has the mentality of a scorer and moves exceptionally well off the ball.

Asked about Brust’s love affair with scoring, associate head coach Greg Gard joked: “He knows where the rim is. We don’t have to point that out to him.”

Told of Gard’s comments, Brust chuckled.

“In practice they say: ‘You shot that from Janesville,’ ” he said, laughing.

But does it go in from that distance?

“Oh, it does,” he said. “Outer space or wherever.”

Can Rob Wilson make his mark? The senior guard-forward struggled with injury, consistency and confidence last season. If he is right this season, he could provide a slasher who can score in the lane and a big guard who can rebound.

“I’ve already wiped it clean,” Wilson said of last season, one in which he averaged 1.6 points and 1.0 rebound per game and shot just 33.3 percent. “I took in what I feel I can learn from it. But I’m past last year. It is my senior year and I just want to play the best I can so we can contend for a Big Ten title.

“I see another window, another door opening.”

Another opportunity?

That’s what the sign reads.

Last updated: 2:17 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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