No one needs to remind Jared Berggren and Evan Anderson about the responsibilities they will take on with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team this fall.
They remind each other every day in the weight room and on the basketball court.
“We have expectations ourselves and our team does, too, that might be even higher than what other people are thinking about,” Anderson said after finishing an early-morning weight room workout recently.
“So our expectations for ourselves are pretty high and we know what we can do.”
Many preseason prognosticators are predicting big things for the Badgers because of the leadership of national player of the year candidate Jordan Taylor and the fearless Mike Bruesewitz.
The biggest question marks regard the replacements for departing senior forwards Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. Last season, the 6-foot-10 Leuer was the team’s leading scorer (18.3 points per game) and rebounder (7.2 rebounds per game), while the 6-8 Nankivil was UW’s third-leading scorer (9.7) and second-leading rebounder (4.2).
Berggren, a 6-10 junior, has spent the summer getting stronger, which has allowed him to gain some confidence with his inside game, defense and rebounding. Anderson, a 6-10 redshirt freshman, has focused on his lower-body strength and is playing with better balance.
“There were way too many times when I showed flashes and then disappeared at times last season,” said Berggren, who averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 rebounds while playing 6.9 minutes a game last season. “That kept me off the court along with having two great players ahead of me in Keaton and Jon. But with myself, if I was more consistent, I knew I could have had more time.”
Berggren had a somewhat lost summer last year due to right shoulder surgery. Without the training regimen that has helped him so much this summer, he couldn’t maintain his strength and never gained full confidence in his shoulder.
UW strength and conditioning coach Scott Hettenbach said that’s all in the past.
“So now Jared can finish at the basket a little stronger and with more confidence,” he said. “He’s not second-guessing or thinking about that shoulder anymore. He just goes out and plays like he did before (the injury).”
Meanwhile, Anderson believes his improvement in the weight room will pay off on the court as he continues to get used to his body that may have finally stopped growing.
“Everything we do in the weight room is getting me used to this frame I have now,” he said. “So I feel more in control of myself.”
Anderson feels lighter, quicker and faster and is focused on helping the Badgers where they need him. “We have guys who can score and I hope I can contribute some points when I was out there, but mainly I just want to take a charge here and there, get some blocks, get some rebounds, things that will help the team that I can do,” he said.
Hettenbach loves Anderson’s attitude.
“He’s always 100 percent. I’d much rather have a kid that way because it’s hard to teach that aggressiveness,” Hettenbach said. “He naturally has that. He’s always his own worst critic. He’s always challenging himself in here. It’s a great environment to be around him.”
Ditto for Berggren, who competes hard with Anderson in the weight room and on the court. “It’s that way every day, all summer long. They’ve done a great job,” Hettenbach said.
Berggren is fully aware of the history of the program’s big men. He was in the locker room when there were questions regarding whether Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry could adequately replace Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma, and whether Leuer and Nankivil could adequately replace Krabbenhoft and Landry.
“It’s my time to step in and contribute and really perform for this team,” Berggren said. “If people want to question it, that’s fine with me. I’m going to work my butt off, get ready and hopefully show some good things.”