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Taylor, Wilson Reflect On Final Home Game

MADISON, Wis. - It's the middle of the afternoon, and a crowd of reporters stood waiting in the bowels of the Kohl Center. The Badger players have long since finished their interviews, and are warming up on the Kohl Center court before practice. On a normal day, most reporters would have already left to find their cars in the building snowstorm.

But Friday wasn't a normal day, just like how Sunday won't be a normal day for Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson, the lone seniors on the Badgers' roster.

The reporters are waiting for Greg Gard, Bo Ryan's longtime lieutenant and the program's associate head coach. Gard emerged from the locker room, coming to face a larger-than-usual media detail, and became emotional when asked about Taylor and Wilson playing their last games in the Kohl Center.

"Yep, this one will be (different)," Gard said about the Badgers' approaching Senior Day. "(They're) two special kids. I'm just happy for both of them because they've both come in and done every thing we've asked."

"That's what I'm most proud of is how they'll walk out of here as people, as young men, and with their degrees, they've obviously made this program better in their four years."

Gard's voice cracked several times as he explained how Taylor and Wilson have grown in their four years at Wisconsin, taking a minute or so to collect himself before pressing on. And while Gard might have unintentionally worn his emotions on his sleeve Friday afternoon, Taylor and Wilson were much more coy about how they were feeling now that their days on the Wisconsin roster are more numbered than usual.

"I don't really like looking at it as my last (game), I just like to think in the moment," Wilson said before practice Friday. "It's sinking in sooner or later, but I just want to go out and get a win."

The ever-affable Taylor said he looked at his final game in the Kohl Center the same way.

"I guess it hasn't sunk in yet," Taylor said. "It'll probably sink in two years from now or so, it takes a while for me."

"I'm not really an emotional guy. I just try to come ready, play hard; it's still another game that you have to try to win."

Even still, it was clear that both Wilson and Taylor are glad they get to spend their last home game with each other. The two guards have had vastly different Wisconsin careers, with Taylor earning All-America honors in 2011 and Wilson contributing mostly from the bench, but through four years they've grown to be close friends.

"I look at it as though we're brothers," Wilson said, who mentioned that Taylor has always been there for him with a joke to tell when Wilson got discouraged about playing time or anything else.

"Rob's like a brother to me," Taylor echoed several minutes later. "Its pretty weird, you know, to be playing my last game with him. It seems like just yesterday we were hanging out in the dorms."

But while it might seem like Taylor and Wilson were wide-eyed freshmen not too long ago, it's clear to both seniors that there's still work to be done this season. The Badgers have one Big Ten game left against Illinois before moving to the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, so now is not the time to get complacent and reminisce about years gone by.

"It's my last go-around," Wilson said. "I want to go deep in the tournament this year, and I want to bring what I can to help this team go far."

In a sense, things have come full circle for Gard and the Badgers. With senior day practically at hand, Gard can still remember a conversation he had with Taylor while he was still a recruit out of Benilde-St. Margaret's in suburban Minnesota. Gard's memory gives a picture of what Taylor was like as a recruit, and shows how much and how little someone can change over a few years.

"(Jordan) is a kid that's been determined, knew what he wanted, had goals in mind, and set out to get them," Gard said. "Obviously it's hard to believe that it's coming to an end."

"He pulled me aside in coach's office one Saturday, I think he was in town for a football game, about what he needed to do to play here, and I took it as ‘what do I need to do to play at this level.' So I went into ‘You need to be able to shoot it better, handle it better ...' and he stopped me mid-sentence and said ‘No coach you don't understand. What do I need to do to player here at Wisconsin? I want to come to Wisconsin. What do I need to do to get here.'"

"You don't see too many 15 or 16 year old kids with that vision in mind. He had an idea in mind of what he wanted to accomplish and where he wanted to be at. Usually it's flipped around the other way."

The Badgers are certainly happy that Taylor's vision came true. Now that he and Wilson are set to appear in the Kohl Center as players for the final time, they can take in the day with their families, and appreciate the experiences they shared together.

"I'm lucky to have played here for four years," Taylor said. "(I'll remember) the fans and playing at the Kohl Center, it's an unbelievable place and an unbelievable place to play basketball."