MADISON -- It's been 17 games, nine weeks or 65 days since starting senior point guard Traevon Jackson landed awkwardly on an opponent's foot against Rutgers and fractured his right foot. One of the vocal leaders of the team, Jackson's defense and ability to drive the ball and create opportunities has been missed.
After much speculation about when he would return and mixed signals from team officials and Jackson himself, the senior has finally been cleared to return to practice and fully participate in all drills.
While Jackson only lightly participated in Tuesday's practice, his clearance is an encouraging sign. When asked whether he would play Friday against Wisconsin's opening-round West reginoal NCAA tournament opponent, Coastal Carolina, Jackson said the chances were "50-50" of him playing.
"It's just a matter of me now," Jackson said. "It's just a matter of one day at a time and just how I feel. I'm not going back fully until I'm 100 percent, but I am cleared."
Until his injury, Jackson had played in all 17 of the Badgers' games, averaging 9.4 points and 2.9 assists in 27.4 minutes per game. Since then, sophomore Bronson Koenig has burst onto the scene and filled the void that Jackson left. The sophomore guard from La Crosse, Wis., has filled in nicely averaging and is averaging 9.9 points and 2.1 assists in 32.8 minutes per game during Big Ten play.
While the Badgers have hardly missed a beat without Jackson in the starting lineup ,his return could bolster bench contribution, which has struggled all season, but more so since his injury. While Jackson brings obvious value to the team, he isn't necessarily looking to return immediately.
"I can't really put a date on it anymore," Jackson said. "It felt great out here, though."
Jackson's clearance does not come without some concerns. He said he felt about 90 percent during practice, but that he still has worries about the ligaments surrounding his foot, as well as his Achilles, being at full strength. He said recently he has been doing some running on the court to simulate the tempo of a game and prepare himself for a return. The senior also asserted that he is not quite game-ready, but he is feeling better and stronger every day.
"Honestly, it's like a 50-50 chance [that I play Friday]. I'm not, like, 100 percent sure, honestly," Jackson said. "I'm not rushing back. It's just a matter of how I feel."
Fellow senior guard Josh Gasser said that whenever Jackson comes back, he will bring a lift to the team. Gasser added that Jackson's return would be "huge" because the team knows how hard he has worked to come back from the injury.
"I'm thinking he can get out there Friday for the game," Gasser said.
Jackson did say that if he is not able to return before the end of the Badgers' run, he feels accomplished enough in what he has done during his time at UW.
"I've come to grips with [not playing]. Honestly, I'd be OK if I didn't play the rest of the season," Jackson said. "It's not really that big of a deal to me where it's like I have to play. I want to be 100 percent to help the team out. I don't want to be a burden to the team or to be a negative impact."
While the Badgers wait for his return, Jackson will surely have an impact on the bench in more of a coaching role. The television broadcasts of the Big Ten tournament showed Jackson drawing on the white board at halftime to demonstrate something he had seen from the bench to his teammates. Koenig also mentioned that Jackson told him during the tournament that it was his time to take over.