The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team is inching closer to the official start of the regular season.
On Monday, head coach Greg Gard met with local reporters for his weekly press conference and went into detail about a number of different topics concerning his team.
Here is a summary of what Gard had to say during his media availability.
Gard began his weekly presser by discussing his charity Garding Against Cancer, which turns seven this year, and highlighting that “it looks like we are going to cross the $7 million dollar range or mark” before December, and that “the response to this has been phenomenal.”
He then transitioned into discussing the team’s upcoming exhibition game against UW-Eau Claire on Sunday, saying “the chance to play in a game setting for our guys is important. I think it’s good from a basketball standpoint, for basketball in the state of Wisconsin that we continue to do this.” Gard would go on to say that it is great to be able to “play against a team that’s preparing for a season, obviously only helps us as we continue to march towards November 7.”
On the topic of the closed scrimmage that Wisconsin had against Northern Iowa over the weekend, Gard noted that these events are “so valuable to learn on the fly and kind of get baptized by fire. I thought we did some really good things. I thought we were very good defensively. I played a lot of guys, I played 12 and pretty much consistent minutes.”
Gard later stated that while he does not think he will go 12-deep throughout the season, he believes he has three “really, really good players that are proven” in Steven Crowl, Chucky Hepburn, and Tyler Wahl, and then “we’ and seen guys kind of take hold and step forward.” However, Gard thinks it could be different guys in as the eighth, ninth, and tenth players in the rotation based on the night, which is indicative of the depth he sees in this team.
Up next, Gard was asked about true freshman Connor Essegian and his progress on the defensive end. Gard had this to say about the young guard:
“He got spun in circles a few times yesterday, which is good because he needs to now see it today on film and see himself. And I think that’s, as I addressed them yesterday after the scrimmage in the locker room, this is always the best teaching for us because they get to see themselves on film.”
Gard continued on the topic by saying, “I think what I’ve seen from Connor is an increased level of toughness, which is the first step towards being a better defender. And the other thing is he understands the rules and concepts, now they have to become habits and instincts so he can play faster and more aggressive.”
Those are typical things that a freshman usually goes through, but Gard made it clear that Essegian will play this season, “because he does so many things offensively you can’t teach, we will help him with his defense.”
The next questions focused on senior wing Jahcobi Neath and his injury status last season. Gard mentioned that he left that up to Jahcobi and the medical team, but that they did give him days off, and this year “his progression has been noticeable.”
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Gard acknowledged that sophomore guard Kamari McGee will be the primary backup behind Chucky Hepburn and Isaac Lindsey can help them out at point guard as well if needed. A former walk-on, Lindsey was recently awarded a scholarship by Gard after practice on Monday and is back healthy after an ankle injury sidelined him for a couple of.
On the topic of Carter Gilmore practicing as a backup center at times, Gard had this to say about the junior from Hartland:
“I think he understands how to play in ball screens. I think he’s gotten really good at that in terms of specifically the middle of the floor with some of our drop coverage. So he’s understood how to properly position his feet and play the drop and not get opened up and driven by. I think the one thing about Carter that stands out too is he’s not afraid to mix it up. He’s physical, he’s competitive.”
Adding further details about the backup center position, Gard noted that Gilmore, Chris Hodges, and Tyler Wahl will likely all see minutes in that role at times.
A few minutes later, Gard was asked about Chucky Hepburn’s comfortability with taking on a greater leadership role this season, and had said, “I think he is very comfortable and I think he’s gotten better in terms of a vocal standpoint of really approaching guys. ” Gard elaborated on the question, saying, “also by how he’s changed his body and how he’s worked he has done a good job of leading by example.” Gard also singled out Tyler Wahl as someone who has become a more vocal leader for the team this season.
Gard had this to say about the challenge for backup forward Chris Hodges, who redshirted last season with the Badgers:
“Especially for big guys, the game will appear exceptionally fast at times. So slow down and be patient. That’s one thing I have always written in notes with him is be patient on both ends of the floor, and that’s something just through reps he’s gonna have to continue to learn. And I think the other thing is don’t get frustrated because coach may not be happy with you every day or each possession. So you got to go to the next quickly and be ready for the next opportunity and learn from it.”
Gard went on to say “I’ve noticed the game has slowed, it’s not slowed enough yet, but we’ve made progression from where we were in France” of Hodges.
You can watch the press conference in its entirety below.
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