Jon Leuer, Jordan Vandenberg, DeShawn Painter UW men's basketball vs. N.C. State
N.C. State's Jordan Vandenberg, left, and DeShawn Painter put pressure on UW's Jon Leuer in the second half of the teams' ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at the Kohl Center Wednesday. The Badgers handily won 87-48 behind their defense. Leuer finished with a team-high 22 points, and on this play drew the foul. John Hart/State Journal

Every now and then Jon Leuer gives a reminder he was a skinny, little point guard who topped out at around 6-foot-2 not long ago.

The last reminder came during the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's 70-56 win over UW-Green Bay on Dec. 13 at the Kohl Center.

The lithe 6-foot-10 senior forward was on the right wing when he beat Phoenix defender Alec Brown on a dribble drive to the hole and finished off the play with a reverse slam dunk.

"Yeah, it kind of goes back to my guard days growing up," Leuer said of his high school years in Orono, Minn., when he grew eight inches in 30 months. "I have some experience doing that. I feel I'm pretty mobile and can get around guys at times."

That dunk showcased another skill Leuer developed as a point guard: reading defenses. Whether he's dribble driving past a slower defender or passing out of a double team in the low post, Leuer generally makes the correct play after making the right read.

"That was just an instance where I made a read, I knew I could beat him off the dribble and score," Leuer said. "I don't know if that's a testament to my confidence building, but I definitely do feel confident in what I'm capable of. That time I just made a read and threw it down."

Leuer's true guard skills also show up when he scores quickly in catch-and-shoot situations and doesn't put the ball on the floor. UW coach Bo Ryan said that shows "he wasn't a big, clumsy guy growing up that is all of a sudden coming into his own."

Leuer, who is averaging a team-leading 19.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, will be in the spotlight again Thursday night when the Badgers (9-2) return to the court after a 10-day break to take final exams.

They face Coppin State (4-4) in their non-conference finale and Leuer needs 26 points to become the 36th player in program history to reach 1,000 in his career.

"I didn't even know that," Leuer said when asked what it will mean to reach such a milestone.

"It's a cool individual stat but I'm not really big into individual stats," Leuer said. "What's more important is what we accomplish as a team. What those points contributed to are a lot of wins and a lot of fun with my teammates."

Leuer is most proud of the Big Ten Conference championship won when he was a freshman. He also remembers big wins over teams including Duke and Texas and Big Ten foes such as Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue.

What excites Leuer is he thinks this UW team is on the cusp of accomplishing something special, too.

"I think we have the right group of guys and the right mind-set, too," Leuer said. "Everyone is here for the team's success and our goal is to do something special. We want to make a Final Four or win a national championship. Those are things we feel we are capable regardless of what everybody else is saying."

The Badgers have typically played their best when they are flying outside the spotlight of national attention during a season. That is certainly the case this season as they have been left out of most discussions regarding the best Big Ten teams.

"We don't really pay attention to that. We go about our business and work hard and hopefully at the end of the year people will recognize us," Leuer said.

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