One of the topics of conversation between sophomore forward Sam Dekker and junior point guard Traevon Jackson during the offseason was about their expectations for the remainder of their time with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program.
Dekker and Jackson shed some light on those talks Friday afternoon during the Badgers’ media day at the Kohl Center.
“I know what’s going to happen this year,” Jackson said. “I know what the expectation we have as a team and how we’re going to change the culture here and how we’re going to win and how we want to do things that have never been done here before. So I’m just excited for it to come true.”
The Badgers are in the midst of a six-week stretch that will include 30 practices leading up to the Nov. 8 season opener against St. John’s in Sioux Falls, S.D.
UW is coming off a season in which it went 23-12 overall and 12-6 in the Big Ten Conference, good for a tie for fourth place in the league. But the Badgers’ season ended with a 57-46 loss to Mississippi in an NCAA tournament opener, only the second time in 12 seasons under coach Bo Ryan that UW went one-and-done on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Immediately after the loss, Dekker said UW, which was labeled an overachiever for much of the season, had underachieved when it mattered most. His conversations with Jackson during the offseason centered around their opinion that the bar had to be raised.
“We want to get to the next level, which is championships,” Dekker said. “That’s what we want. We don’t want to just have a little run of (15) straight NCAA tournament appearances, we want to have a run of titles — Big Ten titles, NCAA titles.”
Ben Brust said he understands where Dekker and Jackson are coming from, but the senior guard warned it will take more than words to reach those goals.
“It’s easy to talk about and say you want to set a bar. But until you do it, it doesn’t matter,” Brust said. “So right now the focus for me is to try to get better and get the team coming together, learning about each other.
“We’re young. We haven’t played a lot of minutes all together, so just learning tendencies out there on the floor and then when the time comes, when it’s later on, if the opportunity is there, you’ve got to go do it. Then you can see it.”
Ryan praises freshmen
The first two weeks of practice have been an eye-opening experience for UW’s six freshmen, but Ryan seems pleased with how quickly the group is picking up things.
“This is probably one of the brightest groups of freshmen collectively that we’ve had,” Ryan said of a collection that includes forwards Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown and Aaron Moesch, along with guards Bronson Koenig, Riley Dearring and Jordan Hill. “Very astute, very perceptive, hungry, and they’re grasping a lot of things.
“And I think it’s out of necessity. Sometimes, freshmen come in and see all these guys in front of them, where they feel they have no chance of getting minutes. We have several guys who know that if they continue to progress and do what we’ve asked of them, that they can get on the floor.”
No hill for Dekker
As a precaution, Dekker didn’t run the Elver Park hill with his teammates as part of UW’s preseason conditioning program. Instead, he worked on conditioning on more level land.
“I had a real bad ankle after my senior year of high school, and after the hill last year it was kind of bothering me,” he said. “But it’s not like I have an injury that’s keeping me out of anything.”