MADISON, Wis. - Josh Gasser's 2012 season ended before it began after he tore the ACL in his left knee during the preseason. Gasser missed the entire season, but almost a year later it sounds as though the 6-foot-3 guard is ready to take the hardwood for the Badgers once again during their exhibition games in Canada.
Head coach Bo Ryan said he's hoping to get Gasser a few minutes in each of their five exhibition games while the training staff continues to prepare him for the regular season.
"[The training staff] is hoping maybe like eight to 12 minute each game," Ryan told media members on Sunday afternoon. "If we could get that, that would be great. It's just a matter of easing him in."
Gasser has been cleared for all contact and has been practicing with the Badgers before they leave for Canada, but the redshirt junior said it will still take him a while to get over the mental block that most ACL injuries leave behind.
"I just haven't been playing much, so the first time you're out there doing stuff it's a little nerve wracking," Gasser said Sunday. "I'm definitely not there yet, but that's the way it should be. That's why I'm doing all this stuff here now, getting out there and playing with the guys. The last phase of this rehab is just getting out there and playing with the guys, playing basketball. I'm kind of at that last place right now."
Gasser's injury forced the Badgers to search for other options at point guard, after All-American point guard Jordan Taylor graduated following the 2011-2012 season. Traevon Jackson spent most of the season as Wisconsin's starting point guard, but Gasser's return gives the Badgers a plethora of options to choose from. Gasser was excited to take over the point guard spot before his injury last year, but this year he says he'll play wherever the team needs him the most.
"My main goal is just to get out there and help my team," Gasser said. "I don't really care what position I play. I love having the ball in my hands and being able to run the offense, but at the same time we have a lot of guys that can do that too. I don't know if we'll even have a set guy as our point guard."
Canada trip provides extra experience
With six freshmen joining the team and three big holes to fill on the frontcourt, it looks like the Badgers picked a pretty good year to make a trip up to the Great White North. The Badgers were allowed to practice 10 additional times over the summer to prepare for their five international exhibition games, and Ryan said he thinks this team in particular will benefit from the extra practice time.
"Every opportunity you get to work with people … if you get a chance to watch them and film them, you can always make it better," Ryan said. "They pick up a little nugget every day."
"The freshmen are working extremely hard. They'll do some things- that's why they we recruited them. And then they'll [mess] some things up, but they're freshmen. We'll see how they do with the lights on and the score being kept."
Two freshmen in particular, forwards Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes, will have a chance to crack the frontcourt rotation this season now that Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz have all graduated. Ryan previously told The Sporting News that Hayes is "the real deal," and told local reporters that the 6-foot-7 Hayes seems to be physically ready for the college game.
"He's more mature than most freshmen you see across the country," Ryan said. "Now it's a matter of his basketball skills and savvy and IQ, and figuring out how we do things."
Senior shooting guard Ben Brust also praised Hayes on Sunday, and said he and the other five freshmen have a great opportunity in front of them during the trip.
"[Hayes] is a big kid," Brust said. "He's finding his way, and that's why a trip like that is perfect to get out there and get some experience. These are going to be intense games, and you can't simulate that."
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