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December 25, 2012

Bohannon writes own headlines



This is the second part of a two-part feature. To read the first part, click here.

For some transfers, that would have been just about the end of the story. They'd move to a program they liked better, compete for playing time, and walk across the graduation stage with some of their new teammates to get a degree in a few years. And while that's all part of the plan for Zach Bohannon, who will complete a bachelor's degree in economics in December and is currently pursuing a master's degree in life sciences communication, Bohannon has used his affinity for writing to make headlines for the Badgers.

Bohannon's public persona started to grow when word got out that President Barack Obama would be making a campaign stop on campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bohannon said he knew the president was fond of basketball, so he posed a simple question to the president's official Twitter account: would he like to play a game of pick-up basketball with the Badgers while he was on campus? Bohannon said he went to bed and didn't think much of it- but when he woke up the next morning his original tweet had been re-tweeted 50 times, eventually rising to 160 times in a day and a half.

Bohannon and Wisconsin's Athletic Communications staff started tweeting around the clock to try and get the president in to the Kohl Center for a quick game, and while the president's staff wasn't able to squeeze the game in, the team did get to meet President Obama privately before his rally on Bascom Hill.

But even before the team was invited to sit in the front row for the campaign rally, national news outlets picked up on Bohannon's furious efforts to play a game of pick-up hoops with the leader of the free world. Most outlets mentioned Bohannon's tweeting in passing to their audiences, but Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com saw something different. After a few extended conversations with Bohannon, Goodman suggested that Bohannon join CBS Sports as a guest blogger for the season.

"[I was] just really blown away by how smart he was, by how funny he was, just how easy he was to communicate with," Goodman said. "I thought about it and said 'this may be the perfect kid to pull it off.'"

Goodman has worked with guest bloggers before, but said he has been hesitant to pull the trigger on something like this in the past. Not many athletes could combine an interesting perspective with competent writing skills, but after talking with Bohannon a few times and reading a nearly 2,000-word essay he wrote after Syracuse knocked the Badgers out of the NCAA Tournament last year, Goodman was convinced that Bohannon had what it takes to bring a fresh perspective to CBS Sports.

"There are very few players who, within one 30-minute conversation, that you just kind of feel that 'this kid gets it,'" Goodman said. "He's infectious, he's a fun kid, and he comes across as being pretty bright. You don't want to bring a kid on who's not going to bring anything extra."

Bohannon's blog is titled 'The Pen is Mightier,' and he said he's hoping to post about once or twice a month, depending on how busy his schedule gets. But while becoming a published writer is new to him, writing itself isn't. Bohannon's first real exposure came after he wrote an emotional post for the athletic department on what it was like to lose in the NCAA tournament and to see two seniors and friends leave the team for good after graduation.

"I'm one of those people where I have to get my thoughts down on paper, or my thoughts just feel cluttered or they don't make sense," Bohannon said. "So when we have a game when it feels like something's missing, and especially after Syracuse, I couldn't let that moment be done. I wanted to make sure the team has something, so we don't just walk away from a deep down moment that we have."

Goodman said he's not going to put many restrictions at all on what Bohannon can post, but Bohannon already has a general theme for his new forum in mind. Bohannon said his team doesn't get enough respect from the national media because they don't like the slow and methodical style of basketball Bo Ryan and the Badgers espouse, and he said he's hoping he can help change the nation's perception of Wisconsin basketball, both with the ball in his hands and with a keyboard under his fingers.

"I want to make sure our team is no different than any other team in the country," Bohannon said. "We recruit the right way, we run a program the right way, and we have a family-type atmosphere. I just want the country to realize that we're a special program."

Unlike most other players, Bohannon willingly admits that too much negative press about his team does get under his skin. He even said he wrote a full rebuttal to one national writer that disparaged the team last season, but didn't originally have the guts to send it in.

"I read negative article after negative article," Bohannon said, "Especially in the December through January stretch. That was one of those things where I was like 'this is kind of bullshit.' Sorry for my language."

Bohannon has already published two posts on the blog: one about how the Badgers responded when they learned that point guard Josh Gasser tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and would miss the entire season, and another about how politics, a favorite topic of his, has mixed with sports over the years. Goodman said the response has been great so far for a guest blogger, and he thinks Bohannon is just getting started with his new platform.

"People have loved it," Goodman said. "So far so good. We've gotten a ton of hits on it. The regular readers have liked it."

"I want him to hit on topics- [like] should players be paid? I think he could really affect things- I know the NCAA reads our stuff- I think he can reach the fans, the coaches. I think he's a bright enough kid where he can get across the point of view of the athlete out there."

Bohannon has often said that he's the "ninth man in an eight-man rotation" this season, so high-stakes situations, other than post-practice free throws, might be few and far between. His time on the court could come a year from now after Wisconsin loses much of its senior-laden frontcourt at the end of this season, but for now Bohannon said he's content to fight and provide some energy whenever he gets on to the court. However, that doesn't mean that won't ever make headlines for the Badgers like his elder brother Jason did- he'll just be writing them himself for now.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.


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