MADISON - One area of the Wisconsin basketball machine that doesn't get near enough due is the scout team. Because, in essence, the guys that are only visible lining the bench any given game, are the guys that mold the players paving the way on the court into what they are.
At the core, the UW scout team is a veteran group. Guys like J.P. Gavinski, Brett Valentyn and Wquinton Smith have been around for a number of years. They know the way coach Bo Ryan runs his practices and they know what they have to do to get the best out of the guys that will see regular playing time.
Heck, with the depth as shallow and relatively unproven as it is, a guy like Smith may find himself as a regular rotation guy. He's as strong as they come at the point guard position and has flourished under the tutelage of one of the best college basketball coaches in the business.
If he doesn't break into the rotation, Smith will run the scout team and be an effective opponent for a guy like Jordan Taylor to compete with each and every day.
The same can be said about Gavinski. In practice, at least in past years, Gavinski has been a force. He extends the defense with a better than advertised jump shot and it's afraid to mix it up in the paint defensively. If not for anything else, Gavinski's big body is obstacle enough for the guys in the regular rotation to battle with each practice.
Valentyn, usually playing the role of the upcoming opponents best shooter, has limitless range. He's not afraid to step up and fire from anywhere on the court and to be honest, a lot of the time his shot goes in.
As veteran scout teamers, it's important to realize the impact they play on success of the team. As guys that play with everything they've got every single day, they do nothing but help the guys that see minutes get it down.
If they team were to lose a game, it's certain the scout team takes it just as hard as everyone else.
Younger guys that also push the veteran and key players are Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise. Each of those two underclassmen plays key roles throughout practice just as much as their scout team elders. Really, though they aren't contributors come game day, it's obvious Ryan has a plan in place to get the best out his team with the use of the scout teamers.
Finally, there's Evan Anderson. Typically when Ryan recruits a prototypical big man, they spent their first season as a redshirt player. Expect the same with Anderson. Though he played particularly well in the season tip-off event and proved that his big body is something of a physical presence throughout his career, Anderson will likely need some time to soak in the college game. Don't count him out to be a player as his career develops.
Overall, not many know their name, but talk to the regular players after a big win or great season and a lot of the credit will be directed toward the invisible players not many know about.
Check BadgerBlitz.com Thursday afternoon for updates from UW basketball media day.