MADISON - Rob Jeter, a former player and assistant for Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, seems to have his best team, or at least one of his better ones, during his tenure at Milwaukee this season.
Off to an 8-2 start, the Panthers will play host to the 8-2 Badgers Tuesday night inside the U.S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee.
"He's establishing his personality with his players," Ryan said of Jeter. "It's never easy, but he's a guy that knows the game. He's a guy that has a vision of how it should be played. He's a guy that learns very quickly as a player and as a coach.
"He's definitely made a lot of steps forward."
So has his team. Prior to losing at Northern Iowa over the weekend, UW-Milwaukee had rattled off four-straight wins over Arkansas Little Rock, Loyola, UIC and at DePaul. Leading scorer, Kaylon Williams, is averaging 12.8 points per game and is shooting better than 45 percent from the field.
James Haarsma, averaging 10.6 points per game, is shooting better than 50 percent from the field in addition to collecting a game-high 7.9 rebounds per contest.
"He's got good players," Ryan said of Jeter. "He's done a great job there. If they play anyway near as hard as he did when he played for me they'll be fine. Just the couple of games I've had a chance to look at they've got a solid club.
"They're like us and everybody else, some nights the ball goes in and some nights it doesn't."
An all-around player:
Obviously when a player shoots 7-of-7 from distance in a 62-51 win over UNLV and leads the team with 25 points much of the attention will be centered around his offensive display.
But as Ryan pointed out, sophomore shooter Ben Brust does a little bit of everything. Not only is he the team's leading scorer, as the sixth man no less, he's also one of the better rebounding guards on the roster.
Only Jordan Taylor (4.4 rpg) and Josh Gasser (4.1 rpg) rebound more than Brust (3.2 rpg). And those two aforementioned players play at least five more minutes on average than Brust.
"He's a shooter," Ryan said. "But he's better defensively. He's making better decisions with the ball. He's a basketball player. He gets attention because of the 3's and rightfully so because he can put a string together.
"But he wants to be known as a complete player."
Butch and Stiemsma land training camp gigs:
With the NBA lockout officially in the rearview mirror teams have been able to focus on signing players for the upcoming, albeit modified, 2011-12 season. Former Badgers center Brian Butch, though he's suffered a slough of injuries during each of the past number of seasons, has signed a NBA training camp contract with the New Orleans Hornets.
Butch last suffered a ruptured patella tendon to his left knee while playing for the Denver Nuggets Summer League team during the summer of 2010. He's recently played for Team USA during the Pan Am Games and also returned to the D-Leagues Bakersfield Jam, where he played in four games this past fall.
His former head coach was asked about his most recent opportunity Monday afternoon.
"It just shows how dedicated he is to the game of basketball," Ryan said. "And how much he loves basketball. He just bounces back. He doesn't look to ever make excuses or to blame anybody for anything.
"He just keeps working."
Stiemsma, though he hasn't had quite the injured past as Butch, has endured several roadblocks throughout his basketball career, too. He recently signed a similar contract to play for the Boston Celtics this season, or at least this training camp.
Stiemsma, like Butch, recently played for Team USA during the Pan Am Games. He's also had short stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers during his NBA career.
"He struggled with some things," Ryan said, eluding to his battle with depression early during his UW career. "But he still loved the game of basketball. He's learned some things and he has things in his life to where he feels pretty good about where he is.
"Why not play a game as long as you can."