Senior Night Reflections: Jason Bohannon

Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon were featured on this cover of The Daily Cardinal's "Courtside" Feb. 10, 2007.

Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes came to Madison in the Fall of 2006 as polar opposites. Bohannon was the townie from Marion, Iowa, while Hughes was the city kid from Queens, New York. They called Bohannon "J-Bo" and Hughes "Pop". Both had high expectations and both saw playing time right away.

Four years later, Bohannon and Hughes are four wins away from setting the all-time win mark at Wisconsin with 106 career victories. Over that timespan, the two guards have become the face of Wisconsin basketball and it's been special for me to watch because their freshman season was the first year I covered the team on an everyday basis.

In Part One of a two-part series, I look back at the collegiate career of Jason "J-Bo" Bohannon:

The Expectations

While Jason Bohannon was still a senior at Linn-Mar High School, my college roommates started calling him "J-Bone" and probably harrassed him a little too much on Facebook.

It didn't take too long before they learned he preferred "J-Bo" but they weren't the only ones who were excited about Bohannon joining the Badgers and if you have seen this video, then you know why.

The comparisons to Iowa guard Adam Haluska, who was a senior when Bohannon was a freshman, started pouring in early and often. Bo Ryan even used Bohannon in a similar way during practice, saying in January of 2007:

"In practice he’s usually like a Haluska, or whoever is a good outside shooter and a guy that can play like that offensively. [He] and Trevon Hughes are the guards and they can pretty much emulate any guards in the league right now."

Before the regular season even started, Bohannon had impressed the coaches enough to warrant playing time.

"He's done enough in practices so far to send a message to the coaching staff," Ryan said in November of 2006. "The main thing is he's still trying to make sure he understands the nuances of what we're doing and how to blend in with the other guys. He's good enough to be on the floor."

Freshman Year

In the first official game of the 2006-07 season, Bohannon played 19 minutes against Mercer and scored two points to go along with three assists and two rebounds.

It didn't take long for him to put on a show, however. In the middle of a tight first-half with Florida International Dec. 2, 2006, Bohannon entered the game and promptly knocked down three 3-pointers to help Wisconsin pull away. Here's what I wrote after that game for The Daily Cardinal:

The most impressive of the three converted 3-pointers came when Bohannon saved a ball that was heading out of bounds. After saving the ball to senior forward Alando Tucker, Bohannon immediately ran back to the three point line where Tucker found him open for his third and final bucket.

 

"Bohannon told me the ref was blinding him," Tucker said after the game. "But I told him, ‘When you caught it, you knew what to do with it.’ And he put it in. That’s what he’s been doing since he stepped on the court. He’s a smart player and that’s one of things that’s going to carry him a long way in a Wisconsin uniform."

Another unforgettable moment from Bohannon's freshman year came at Iowa when he had to face the Hawkeye fans who weren't too pleased that he left his hometown state for the Badgers.

 

Bohannon only played three minutes in the game, but he made them count. On his first possession of the game, Bohannon found himself about three feet beyond the arc and the shot clock winding down. The freshman put up the shot in the midst of the boos and drained it.

 

"I’ve played here a lot," he said after the game. "I’ve gotten familiar playing here a little bit and just had to go out here and play and not worry about what was going on off the court."

 

The other performance I remember most from Bohannon's freshman year was at Ohio State in the biggest Badger basketball game I have ever covered. Wisconsin was ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll while the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll. The Big Ten title was also hanging in the balance.

 

The Badgers needed a boost after Brian Butch went down with a dislocated elbow early in the game and Bohannon almost singlehandedly kept the Badgers in the game. He scored 11 points in 17 minutes and hit all three of his 3-point attempts. Wisconsin would go on to lose the game by one-point, but the clutch performance in a hostile environment proved that Bohannon was a player Bo Ryan could count on for years to come.

 

With Butch out for the rest of the season, minutes were available and Bohannon averaged 27.7 minutes in the last three games of the season, which happened to be the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game and two NCAA Tournament contests. He averaged 8.7 points in those three games.

 

Sophomore Year

 

With starting shooting guard Michael Flowers entering his senior season, Bohannon was forced to come off the bench again his sophomore year, but its hard to imagine J-Bo doing a better job than he did as UW's sixth man.

 

Playing in limited minutes during the first half of the season, Bohannon still exploded for 17 points against Florida A&M and 14 against Wofford, but it was his performance at Texas Dec. 31, 2007 that propelled him into a much more important role the rest of the season.

 

The night before the game, Hughes went down with a ankle injury and Bohannon was thrusted into the starting lineup. Few gave Wisconsin a chance even with Hughes in the lineup, but Bohannon came in and played 31 solid minutes, scoring 10 points and dishing out three assists while pulling down five rebounds.

 

When Flowers hit the game winning three and stole an in-bounds pass as time expired, lost in the shuffle was the contribution that Bohannon provided. Few ignored the spark J-Bo provided off the bench the rest of the season, however.

 

In another game won at the buzzer -- this time on a banked three-pointer by Brian Butch at Indiana -- Bohannon had his best game yet as he hit 6-of-11 threes and scored 18 points to help the Badgers pull off the upset on the same day IU head coach Kelvin Sampson came under fire for recruiting violations.

 

Bohannon saw at least 25 minutes of action in 14 of the team's 18 conference games and averaged 10.6 points off the bench in the final 14 games en route to being named the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year.

 

In the team's final regular season game of the year, as Wisconsin clinched an unlikely outright Big Ten title with a 65-52 win at Northwestern, Bohannon broke Wes Matthew's UW record of 35 consecutive made free throws and set the new mark at 39.

 

"Yeah, I knew the record was on the line," Bohannon said after the game. "As much as I really didn't want to think about it, I did. The last couple of games people have mentioned it and everything. Some people were joking around before I was going up to the line that it was for the record. Joe [Krabbenhoft] was saying something and Tanner Bronson too."

 

Junior Year

 

In a year that was still pretty successful, Bohannon moved into the starting lineup but was inconsistent at times. He still averaged 10.3 points per game, but that number was only up 2.1 points from when he was coming off the bench the year before.

 

Bohannon's minutes were up 6.8 per game from his sophomore season and he took 75 more shots throughout the season, which is why fans were hoping to see more than two point increase in production.

 

But while he only shot 38 percent overall on the season and 36 percent from behind the arc, Bohannon's junior season was by no means a disappointment. With Flowers and Butch out of the picture, it was much easier for opposing teams to key on him defensively, which contributed to the inconsistency.

 

Still, Bohannon reached the 20-point plateau twice, hitting 8-of-12 shots from the field against Northwestern and knocking down a ridiculous 6-of-7 threes against Illinois at the Kohl Center.

 

Unfortunately, a late-season slump brought about a sour end to the season as Bohannon averaged only 5.2 points per game in five-game stretch that culminated in his only zero-point output of the year at Minnesota.

 

As the season came to an end with a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Xavier in which Bohannon only hit 2-of-12 shots and 1-of-7 threes, you had a feeling that a kid with so much talent would turn it around in his final season in Madison.

 

Senior Year

 

Things weren't exactly looking up after Bohannon was only shooting 25 percent from the field in his first four games this season. That changed quickly, however, when J-Bo broke out of a shell against the Maryland Terrapins in the Maui Invitational Third Place Game.

 

Bohannon finished with 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc, as the Badgers won comfortably. Since then, he has improved the most of any Wisconsin player as the season has gone along.

 

In his last seven games, Bohannon is averaging 18.3 points per game, by far the best stretch he has had in a Wisconsin uniform. Over that time frame, there's no question he has been UW's most valuable and most consistent player.

 

Once an exclusive three-point shooter, Bohannon is now getting to the basket with ease and has consistently knocked down short jumpers and layups. His defense has improved immensely, as he is now considered a defensive chaser.

 

Shooting 48 percent overall this season and 41 percent from behind the arc -- good for fourth in the Big Ten -- Bohannon's collegiate career is reaching new heights at the right time.

 

Bohannon's Legacy

 

Jason Bohannon will go down as one of the best shooters in Wisconsin history. Having made 207 three-pointers in his career, J-Bo ranks fourth in that category all-time at Wisconsin. He is currently the third-best free throw shooter in UW history with an 84.8 percent mark at the free throw line.

 

Bohannon was also the 35th Wisconsin player to reach the 1,000 career points mark when he scored 13 points against Penn State Jan. 24.

 

His career has been a pleasure to watch, but it's not over yet. Bohannon has quietly been playing some of the best basketball in the Big Ten over the last few weeks and there are at least four more games to be played.

 

Wednesday night will be his last game at the Kohl Center and it will fittingly come against Iowa -- the team he turned down four years ago to attend Wisconsin.

 

I think it is safe to say he made the right choice.

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