Jared Berggren's talent was always apparent during his career at Wisconsin, even if he didn't display it routinely. Maybe he fooled us last year into thinking he was a legit 3-point marksman when he made 45-of-121 (37.2%) treys. But his 27-point outburst against Creighton gave us hope that he was going to have a dominant senior season.
Intertwined with a handful of thunderous dunks and few clutch moments were his steady defense and rim protection. Dominance never materialized. Berggren finished his college tenure scoring in single digits in five of his last eight games.
This week, Berggren's quest for a pro career started with an appearance at the 61st annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, marking the sixth year in a row a former Badger has been invited to participate.
Theoretically, the Portsmouth setting should be perfect for Berggren though. He's a guy who we know possesses athleticism and shooting ability, but in many ways hasn't lived up to his potential yet. The slate hasn't been wiped completely clean for the 64 seniors who attend, but the opportunity is there to start reshaping their reputations.
Berggren, known as a bit inconsistent, follows in the footsteps of Jordan Taylor, Trevon Hughes, Marcus Landry, Brian Butch, Kammron Taylor and more in Portsmouth. Jon Leuer skipped the event in 2011 since he was a likely draft pick, so unfortunately none of UW's attendees have ever been drafted. In fact, only Landry and Kirk Penney have actually played in a regular season NBA game. But that is not unusual.
Most PIT alums who wind up on NBA rosters have to do it the hard way, going undrafted. Playing well at Portsmouth can plant a seed that will lead to a camp invite, workout, or free agent contract down the line. In most cases, the players that do it have size, which works in Berggren's favor.
Glancing at the roster for Berggren's Sales System, Ltd. squad, however, you had to wonder how he'd get the rock with chuckers like Khaliff Wyatt and Rotnei Clarke at guard. I can't say that watching their opening game eased my mind.
Playing in a 1-2 punch alongside Michigan State's Derrick Nix, Berggren had five points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a losing effort Thursday night. He squared off mostly with WAC Player of the Year Kyle Barone from Idaho, who had 11 rebounds and eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.
The former Badger looked well-conditioned and sank two nice-looking jumpers in the first half, but was quiet after the break. What really holds back Berggren in my opinion is that he lacks the explosiveness and fast-twitch muscle of other guys he is compete for a job against. I know, I know, the guy's vertical is sick. But he seems to need to "wind up" for rebounds (or when making a post move) more so than other guys on the court.
Interestingly, Berggren measured out at a solid 6-foot-9¾, but only 225 pounds. His wingspan was only 83 inches, a pretty small measurement for a guy his size.
Yet, like we always discuss around tourney team, all the underdog team needs is one shot at the big boys to become cinderella. And all Berggren needs is to find a team that needs a defensive-minded role player that can hit a few jumpers here and there in limited minutes. It can happen, maybe even with an NBA club. If not, there's always Europe.
Berggren plays again Friday afternoon, with his third and final game on Saturday. You can watch all the games online through CBSSports' ULIVE channel.
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