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Wisconsin basketball: Nigel Hayes, Charlie Thomas play well in first practice open to media

The Badgers held their first practice open to the media Tuesday. Basketball was played, and it was a cool sight.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off consecutive Final Four berths, the basketball season is at long last under way for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Holding their first open practice for the 2015-16 season on Tuesday, there was a much different look from when the Badgers were seen walking off the elevated floor at Lucas Oil Stadium following the national championship loss to Duke.

Junior forward Nigel Hayes asserted himself as the best player on a team that lost three players to the NBA in addition to its four-year starter team captain and former starting point guard in Josh Gasser. With many gaps left by those losses, the Badgers are forced to take a look at a wide range of different players.

Freshman forward Charlie Thomas is one of the players head coach Bo Ryan and company may use to fill out the front court picture given the void left by the departures of the NBA-bound Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Duje Dukan.

The 6'8, 253-pound Thomas was aggressive during the five-on-five scrimmage, finishing with (an unofficial) six points in the 20-minute phase. On multiple occasions, he cleaned up the offensive glass on misses from his teammates.

Hayes was able to create his own shot off the dribble and drained a three-pointer to reach his total of 11 points.

Notes, observations:

  • If Thomas's body looks nothing like that of a freshman, then center Andy Van Vliet's does. The freshman from Belgium is listed at 6'11, 203 pounds, and looked every part of that thin frame.
  • The 30-second shot clock has been implemented at Badgers practices. At one point, it caused confusion when play was stopped for a supposed 10-second backcourt count with the shot clock at 24. With the new shot clock rule, the offense still has four seconds to advance the ball past the midcourt stripe.
  • The white team included TJ Schlundt, Jordan Hill, Van Vliet, Thomas, Ethan Happ, Zak Showalter and Aaron Moesch.
  • The red team featured Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown, Alex Illikainen, Riley Dearring, Khalil Iverson and Riley Dearring.
  • Hill was a clear vocal leader for the white team. He used breaks in the action as teaching moments for the younger guards and was the first to talk to Happ after a call frustrated him.
  • Van Vliet showed a fluid stroke from deep during shooting drills. The lefty was consistent in his form, sinking most of his perimeter shots.
  • Big Ten media day will be held on Thursday in Chicago. B5Q will have coverage live from the event.