MADISON -- As the Badgers prepare to take on UW-Green Bay tonight, a key contributor off the bench this year is returning to the fold. Redshirt senior Duje Dukan is eligible once again after serving a four-game suspension for participating in a closed scrimmage and an exhibition game during the 2012-'13 season before deciding to redshirt after contracting mononucleosis.
Sounds stupid right? The many around the country thought so, and so did the Badgers players. Dukan’s teammate from last year, Zach Bohannon, started a #FreeDuje campaign on twitter and wrote an article for CBSsports.com on the matter. While the reasoning behind the suspension is mind-boggling considering he never played in an actual game that counts towards in the record books, Dukan is ready to get back out on the court.
"It was tough. Obviously very frustrating having to sit those two games out." Dukan said, "Working your butt off and getting to go out to battle with the guys and not having the opportunity to be out there with them was tough."
Dukan appeared in all 38 games for Wisconsin last year, averaging eight minutes per game off the bench. He shot 50 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three-point range. Other than a career-high 15 points against St. John’s last year, Dukan's finest hour may have been against Kentucky where he provided a much needed spark off the bench, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds.
Dukan is expected to be a major piece of this year’s team off the bench, factoring in as the first player in to come on in relief for the frontcourt. The 6’10" forward has shown great promise offensively, with the ability to stretch the floor inside and out.
"[Against UW-GB I’m] looking to contribute to these guys and help out any way I can to get the 'W'." Dukan said.
The forward’s teammates are very happy to have him back as well. After the game against Chattanooga, head coach Bo Ryan mentioned that getting Dukan back just adds depth to the team. His teammates had rave reviews for the former U-20 Croatian National Team participant.
"It’s huge for us. Duje’s a incredible player," said redshirt senior guard Josh Gasser. "It just gives us another scoring option."
"We’re really excited to have Duje back," added junior forward Sam Dekker. "[He can] spread the floor, bring it inside with his size and his skill that he has all over the floor."
Dukan said he trying not to focus on the fact that it is his first game back, but rather concentrate on Wisconsin’s opponent Wednesday. His attention will center mostly on Keifer Sykes, the star of Green Bay’s attack.
"He’s really, really fast. He’s a really good point guard," Dukan said. "You can’t forget about the other guys surrounding him. They really hit the glass. They’re really athletic."
After having the first two games of the season taken away from him, Dukan wants to make the most of his opportunity when he checks in to the game Wednesday.
"I can’t wait. I can’t even put into words how excited I am to put the jersey back on and get ready to get out with the guys."
Wisconsin takes on UW-Green Bay in Madison at 8 p.m. CT on BTN and BTN2GO.