The Wisconsin men's basketball team officially kicks off its summer exhibition slate at 6 p.m. CDT tonight against reigning Canadian collegiate champion Carleton University, which has won the CIS (think NCAA) national title a record nine times. The Ravens just pasted TCU, 77-51, Sunday in addition to beating Towson earlier this month.
One Badger most excited to get a crack at Carleton is Josh Gasser, who is itching to get back on the court in a real game situation after missing all of last season due to ACL, LCL and meniscus damage from a preseason injury. The redshirt junior guard was recently cleared to join his teammates in contact drills, meaning Gasser finally has the green light for Canada.
Even though Bo Ryan claims no one's playing time is set in stone, the goal is to get Gasser on the court for 8-to-12 minutes a game up north. That should be enough time to try him out in a few different lineup combinations as he eases back into going full speed. Gasser sounds very ready mentally, but the proof will come between the lines.
Gasser's goal had always been to be ready for full-contact drills by the team's first practice in October and be back to 100 percent for the season opener Nov. 8. He admitted he was prepared to play it safe, even if that meant not playing in Canada. But now that it appears Gasser is a little ahead of schedule, he -- and the whole state of Wisconsin -- feel a lot better.
Wisconsin missed Gasser's steady hand a year ago while transitioning from Jordan Taylor to George Marshall and Traevon Jackson. Gasser still has the same playmaking instincts that put him in position to be Wisconsin's lead guard last fall, yet he never has been Ryan's anointed point guard in a real game yet.
With the improvement of Jackson late last season, you will see a few more three-guard lineups this season to get Gasser, Jackson and senior Ben Brust on the court together, with Gasser sliding over to defend small forwards at times.
"I love having the ball in my hands and being able to run the offense but at the same time we've got a lot of other guys who could do that, too."
Considering the glut of options in the backcourt, the tour through Canada is an ideal opportunity for Gasser to start integrating himself back into the mix.
Another important benefit of a summer trip like this is the team-building aspect, and Gasser's return should be a big boost to the team from a leadership standpoint. There are some things you just cannot do from the sidelines.
Ryan told Mike DeCourcy earlier this month that Gasser's shooting stroke is more accurate than ever, so it appears Gasser's sophomore year improvement behind the arc was no fluke. Gasser raised his 3-point shooting percentage from 30 percent in 2010-11 to 45 percent in 2011-12 while also drastically increasing his number of attempts.
All that practice should come in handy over the next week as the Badgers play with a deeper 3-point line thanks to the international rule book. The games will also be played with a 24-second shot clock.
Though the game tonight is not televised or streamed live for us, check out UWBadgers.com for in-game coverage on the web.
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Part of Josh Gasser's playmaking ability comes in the form of taking care of the ball. He's already on track to finish as one of the best in school history when it comes to assist-to-turnover ratio.
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