Sometimes in sports, the phrase "happy to be here" is spoken in derogatory way. We've all heard a reporter or analyst imply -- if not utter outright -- something like, "It doesn't matter if Team X wins or loses, they are just thrilled to make it to the Big Dance."
So when I say Zach Bohannon always looked happy to be at Wisconsin, I want to be clear I mean it in the most complimentary way possible. Not many people can say they took advantage of the full student-athlete experience like Bohannon did.
Bohannon spent three seasons in the Wisconsin basketball program after transferring from the Air Force Academy following his sophomore year. Even though he had to wait a full year to play in a meaningful game, Bohannon made his presence felt from day one.
Part of a vaunted Iowa basketball family, Bohannon's arrival in Madison didn't bring unrealistic expectations. Though he had shown the capacity to be a key contributor at Air Force, the 6'6" forward demonstrated a willingness to mix it up in practices because he knew that would be his niche as a walk-on at Wisconsin. Most fans knew not to expect him to become a long distance sniper like his highly-decorated older brother Jason.
No, Zach was the pesky one. His introduction to fans at his first Red/White Scrimmage was a thoroughly enjoyable surprise in which Bohannon collected 13 points, six rebounds and four steals.
"He’s a digger," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "If you get lazy with a rebound, it’s gone around him."
Ryan's characterization proved to be true time and time again. Though he was never fleet of foot, Bohannon had a nose for the ball and a knack for catching opponents off guard.
On the day Duje Dukan announced he would redshirt two seasons ago, Bohannon made his debut for Wisconsin in the 2012-13 season opener. He scored five points (on 2-for-2 shooting), adding five rebounds and a blocked shot versus Southeastern Louisiana. Bohannon was the fifth forward in the rotation early on, helping to bridge the "scrapper" gap while Mike Bruesewitz recovered from a gnarly leg laceration. He was also called upon for limited minutes when Frank Kaminsky went down with an eye injury during the Big Ten slate.
As a redshirt junior, Bohannon appeared in 17 games and posted rather stunning rebounding numbers. For example, Bohannon grabbed eight rebounds in seven combined road minutes at Iowa and Northwestern. His offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) of 12.8 would have easily led the team had he played enough minutes; only Ryan Evans could top his defensive rebounding mark of 20.6%.
While a nuisance to opponents on the court, Bohannon will likely be remembered more fondly for his contributions off the court. He's just as goofy as the rest of the guys on this year's team, but he's also known as the group's deep thinker. You can often find Bohannon extolling wisdom and positive bits of coach speak on Twitter (@ZBohannon). His social media game is quite strong actually, as you may have heard.
Bohannon's Young Republican hairstyle makes him an easy target for ridicule, but the man gets results. And he's not afraid to reach across the aisle. After a persistent Twitter campaign (and a great assist from George Marshall), the outspoken Bohannon was able to secure a private audience with Barack Obama for him and his teammates prior to the President's speech on campus. Bohannon parlayed the exposure into a part-time blogging gig on CBS, a forum he used to advocate for athletic trainers among other things.
This season, Bohannon met yet another president, George W. Bush, and was none too shy about asking to take a selfie with him. I guess that's one way for Z-Bo to top his Final Four coaches four-pack of selfies. Kid can press the flesh ...
Wisconsin records held
|CAREER - Most U.S. Presidents photographed with||2|
Fittingly, Bohannon wants to run for office. The big one -- the Oval Office. He graduated with an economics degree in 2012, but that was just the start. Bohannon followed up by earning a master's degree in life sciences communication last summer. Currently, the two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection is working toward completing his MBA.
Most recently, Bohannon shared his opinions on the collegiate athlete unionization issue, drawing on his experience with the National College Players Association.
As for basketball? Well, as the Badgers improved this past season Bohannon played fewer minutes and saw his production slip (9.4 OR%, 13.2 DR%), but he still finished with the best steal percentage (4.7) on the team. But Bohannon would be the first to tell you he'd gladly trade individual achievements for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of the Final Four:
Besides, Bohannon's UW career did end with at least one notable accomplishment: He holds the edge in career three-point shooting percentage (50%) over his brother (38%).
Thank you, Zach Bohannon, for validating that Wisconsin is a much greater place to be than Iowa.
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