Taking a charge during the summer is generally frowned upon, even for the best defensive player in a program which has built a reputation over the last 15-plus years on doing whatever it takes to keep the opposition from scoring.
"We kind of get mad when people take charges in open gym," said Josh Gasser, a guard for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team, "just because that's the one time of the year we don't do that."
Not anymore. Gasser has been planting his feet and bracing for contact much more often this summer thanks to the NCAA's decision to allow more contact between coaches and players. UW coach Bo Ryan has taken advantage of the opportunity — coaches are allowed two hours of structured practice time per week for an eight-week stretch during the summer school period — by watching over spirited practices on Tuesdays at the Kohl Center.
"Charge Tuesdays, we call them," UW forward Ryan Evans said. "That's how Coach referred to it, anyway. You're going to take charges, block out, all the little things."
Summer scrimmages have always been pretty competitive for the members of a UW program which has been to 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments, but the little things — hustling back on defense, making sound decisions on offense — tend to get forgotten at times.
The Badgers still scrimmage three times a week on their own. But for those two hours on Tuesdays, they're sure to follow the rules that Ryan has set en route to becoming UW's all-time winningest coach.
"It's kind of like having a parent around all the time," UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. "You have a tendency to always do what's right when the parent is around. Not that guys deviated too much, but it adds a little more accountability and we've noticed we've become extremely competitive in that two-hour window we have."
Coaches like the summer practices because they're an opportunity for the team to bond and build chemistry. The sessions also give coaches the opportunity to gauge development and identify areas that need work.
That's especially important for a team that went 26-10 last season and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament but must replace point guard Jordan Taylor, the NCAA's career leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. Gasser is the leading candidate to take over for Taylor, followed by redshirt freshman George Marshall.
"I think we've got a variety of options and that's what's fun about (these practices): We can put guys in different positions and see how they react," UW assistant coach Gary Close said. "It's not a do-or-die situation; we're not preparing to play somebody in two days, so we can throw a guy out there and see what he can do."
Players like the sessions because it breaks up the monotony of the open-gym season and gives them a chance to prove themselves to Ryan and his assistants. The sessions are particularly important for incoming freshmen Sam Dekker and Zak Showalter because they'll be better equipped to know what Ryan expects of them when preseason practice begins in October.
The score is kept during 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 work, and just like during the season, statistics are charted.
"I think it just keeps us up to speed more than anything," UW center Jared Berggren said. "When we come back in the fall, we haven't had any contact with the coaches basketball-wise for a couple months, so it's a little bit of an adjustment. … This keeps the intensity up."