Ben Brust’s eyes lit up when discussing the different rules the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team will encounter in Canada, including two the senior guard figures will work to his advantage.
The Badgers will be playing by international basketball rules during the five-game exhibition trip that begins Wednesday night in Ottawa with a game against Carleton University.
That means, among other changes, a deeper 3-point line (22 feet, 1¾ inches instead of 20-9) and a shorter shot clock (24 seconds instead of 35).
Brust has shown off his shooting range during his first three seasons at UW — he’s made 139 3-pointers, including a school-record 79 last season — and is prepared to do more of the same in Canada.
“I love it,” Brust said of the extended 3-point arc, “because I’ll probably just go farther and farther back.”
Brust, who led the Badgers in scoring last season at 11.1 points per game, also finds the shorter shot clock appealing.
“Twenty-four seconds, that’s a couple more possessions,” Brust said. “So we’ll see how many shots we can get up.”
The Badgers have been getting used to the rule changes during summer practices leading up to Tuesday’s departure to Canada. Among the other differences are a wider lane and 2 fewer seconds to get the ball across halfcourt, from 10 seconds in NCAA play to 8 in international competition.
“I think the 24-second shot clock will be interesting, because with the 8 seconds in the backcourt you might get some teams that pressure, then drop back into a zone,” Brust said. “I don’t know. I really don’t. There are so many unknowns. It’s exciting.”
Added junior guard Josh Gasser, who missed last season with a left knee injury but has been cleared to play and is expected to contribute 8-to-12 minutes per game: “It’s a little different, but it’s still basketball. You’ve got to put the ball in a 10-foot hoop. That’s the ultimate goal. We’ve been working on it in practice and stuff like that, so I think we’re pretty much used to it.”
The Badgers will begin with a stiff test in Carleton, which has won nine of the past 11 Canadian national championships. The Ravens are 2-0 against NCAA competition this summer, including a 77-51 victory over Texas Christian on Sunday.
UW will also play the University of Ottawa before heading to Toronto for a game against Ryerson University sandwiched in between two games against A-Game Hoops, which has a roster comprised mainly of Canadians playing professionally overseas.
“They can play,” UW coach Bo Ryan said of the competition his team will face in Canada. “They’re not bad, and they’re a lot better than they were 10, 20 years ago. Canadian basketball has improved a lot.”
Ryan said he’s interested to see how the Badgers react to being in an unfamiliar setting.
“Here, you’re in your comfort zone,” he said. “Now you take yourself out of that zone. Even though it’s not a country very far away, you’re in a different setting.”
Ryan was asked how he’ll balance winning games with getting his players — particularly the young ones — some valuable experience. Not only does UW’s roster include six true freshmen, but the Badgers must replace their entire starting frontcourt from last season’s team that went 23-12.
“I just want to see them under pressure,” Ryan said. “I want to see them with the score being kept and also knowing that a lot of guys are going to get a lot of minutes.”
The most intriguing player among the freshmen may be Nigel Hayes, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward from Toledo, Ohio. Ryan recently referred to Hayes as “the real deal” during an interview with Sporting News and, though practices this summer have been closed to the media, word has gotten out that Hayes has been impressive.
“Physically, he’s more mature than most freshmen you see throughout the country,” Ryan said of Hayes, who likely will be in the mix for major playing time in the frontcourt alongside returnees Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. “So now it’s a matter of his basketball skills and savvy and IQ and improving and figuring out how we do things.”
Brust can attest that Hayes has made an impression.
“(It) hurts when you run into him, I’ll tell you that much,” Brust said. “The first open gym, I go up for a rebound and he next thing you know I’m under the basket. Oh, my goodness. He’s a big kid.
“He’s finding his way, and that’s why a trip like that is perfect. Get out there, get experience, because these are going to be intense games and you can’t simulate that. As much as you try in practice, it just isn’t a game and this will be, and I think it will be good for everyone.”