It's probably not a secret by now, but Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky looks lighter than a season ago.
"Jared from Subway helped me," the lanky sophomore center joked during Wisconsin's basketball media day on Tuesday.
Averaging around eight minutes a game off the bench as a true freshman -- the third-most of any player off the bench for the Badgers -- the 6-foot-11 native of Lisle, Ill., contributed in a role supporting veteran center Jared Berggren and displayed surprising athleticism last season. At times, he also exhibited a soft touch from the three-point line.
In other areas, Kaminsky also looked sluggish and weak when faced up against some of the Big Ten's premier post players.
When asked about enduring any growing pains being thrust into the rotation as a freshman, Kaminsky noted that he may not have been as prepared for the expectations and physical demands of head coach Bo Ryan's program.
"It was pretty much everything," Kaminsky said of his struggles. "Straight from summer conditioning into practices was way different than anything I'd ever had before. The Hill [the infamous conditioning regimen at Elver Park the Badgers run each fall], that's an eye-opening experience as a freshman, it was tough."
But Kaminsky proved himself ready to adapt after the last season's loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16. The center met with coaches and the strength and conditioning staff during the offseason to ask what they thought he needed to do to hone his body to be able to reach new heights athletically on the court.
Focusing on eating right and rededicating himself during another offseason of workouts, Kaminsky and teammates endured another rigorous conditioning program, waking up almost every day at 6 a.m. to complete their infamous runs up and down the Hill.
"I mean, as much as it kind of sucks to wake up that early every morning and have to go to conditioning while everyone is off and enjoying their summer, going on vacations and stuff, it's what you work for as a player and it's what's necessary to become the kind of player I want to be," Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky also noted that he let himself deteriorate throughout the course of last season, a somewhat common trend with players oft used in the starting lineup, as practices become fewer and less physically demanding with the increase of games and the desire of coach to keep their players with fresher legs.
"I noticed how I let myself get into worse shape last year just by eating unhealthy and gaining weight," Kaminsky said. "I just tried to change that as much as I could."
And that conditioning will come into play during the later portions of games, as Kaminsky looks to have an increased role and minutes off the bench this season.
In fact, Kaminsky slimmed down and toned up so much that Ryan jokingly told a reporter that who he was seeing on the court wasn't the sophomore, but "his cousin."
"It's just he's not a freshman anymore," Ryan said. "He's moving his feet, he's more cognizant of anticipating what's next, he's not caught up in maybe if he doesn't do something well, he doesn't mumble to himself going back down the court or hang his head. As much as you try to tell people about these things you have to be a person who can continue on with the fight.
"If you miss a shot, it can't affect what you do defensively. If defensively a guy gets something or you didn't block out, just make sure it doesn't happen again and go on to what's next like we always talk about. Frank understands ‘next' so much better this year then last year. When somebody asks me about when I say Frank is one of the most improved players I've seen, one of the measures I use for improvement is how quickly they get to ‘next.'"
Kaminsky also noted that he's put more of an emphasis this offseason and in practice so far to try to assert himself on the court.
"On the court my aggressiveness level needed to change," Kaminsky said. "When we are in pickup games I try to be way more aggressive."
Part of that may come in the form of the center's three-point shooting. Kaminsky displayed a solid stroke at times from the outside, knocking down 10 threes but converting less than 29 percent of his attempts.
Kaminsky was noted in high school for having a rare soft-touch for a center and there's reason to believe that Badgers fans will see more of the sophomore shooting bombs from downtown in 2012.
"I mean, I've kind of always been noted as a good outside shooter," Kaminsky said. "But last year, for some reason I just didn't have any confidence on my shot. The coaches told me I need to work on getting more arc on my shot and just being confident, stepping in and shooting it and not thinking about it, so, that's what I've tried to do so far."
With a newly found sense of identity and comfort in the Wisconsin program, Kaminsky could be next in line as another solid center that Ryan has developed during his tenure at UW.