I must admit, when it came time to decide on a topic to write about this week, I was stumped, I was unprepared and lost.
Then I watched the Wisconsin men’s basketball team play on back-to-back nights of the Hall of Fame Classic, and it hit me.
True freshman guard Brad Davison.
I have been a fan of Wisconsin athletics for my entire life and have followed the basketball program very closely, and I don’t recall being this excited about a freshman, ever.
When you watch Davison play, it’s clear that he belongs at Wisconsin (currently 2-3 this season). That’s despite growing up in neighboring Minnesota, as he displays a hard-nose approach to the game with his seemingly never-ending hustle and passion for the game.
Former player and current assistant coach, Joe Krabbenhoft, first encountered Davison at a camp his former employer, South Dakota State was hosting, as noted in Jim Polzin’s feature in the Wisconsin State Journal:
“He was winning every drill and he was one of the younger guys in the gym,” Krabbenhoft recalled this week. “He just competed like crazy. He was taking charges in the elite camp in the middle of the summer. It was awesome.”
The Jack Rabbits would offer Davison a scholarship, which he eventually turned down, thus ending up in Madison.
Davison is the next in a long line of “glue guys” at Wisconsin, a tradition that has featured some of the best in Wisconsin’s history. While pretty much every Badger player can be considered such a designation as the team preaches defense and hard work, there are three players that stick out to me when I think about that title. Those include fan favorites like Krabbenhoft, Josh Gasser and Zak Showalter.
For those unfamiliar with the term, it means a player does the little things to make your team successful, such as taking charges, diving for loose balls, sets screens and is a pest on defense. Davison is the epitome of that and could go down as one of the best in program history.
The main difference between those that came before him and Davison is his scorer’s mentality.
Through five games, Davison is averaging 10.4 points per game and is shooting 40 percent from the field, including 39.1 percent on three-point attempts.
Those numbers should only continue to get better, as the freshman navigates his way through his first year playing NCAA hoops and continues to improve and gain confidence.
In comparison, none of the three that came before him, Krabbenhoft (6.1), Gasser (7.3) and Showalter (5.3), held career scoring averages over 10 points per game and none had a single season where they averaged double-digits.
In Monday night’s loss to No. 22 Baylor, Davison showed his grit when left the game with medical staff, clutching his shoulder. He emerged from the tunnel minutes later and re-entered the game. He aided Wisconsin in their comeback bid, which ultimately fell short in the 70-65 loss.
Davison fouled out but was able to score 13 points, hitting three of five from behind the arc and all four of his attempts from the charity stripe in 26 minutes off the bench.
Last night, Brad Davison suffered an injury against #22 Baylor— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 22, 2017
Tonight, Brad Davison has drawn four charges against #23 UCLA
Brad Davison is tougher than you
The following night, in Wisconsin’s 72-70 loss to No. 23 UCLA, Davison and redshirt freshman Aleem Ford, joined elite company of freshman to start for Wisconsin. Since the days of Bo Ryan, very few freshmen have cracked the starting lineup and even fewer true freshmen. Davison has now done so in the latter category, joining the likes of Devin Harris, Alando Tucker, Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker.
Davison once again showed he is the perfect fit with Wisconsin in the loss to the Bruins, taking four charges while scoring a career-high 14 points.
The freshman in true “glue guy” fashion seems to be wherever the ball is when he is on the court, diving for loose balls, collecting steals and overall being a thorn in the opposing offense’s side.
Through his first five games as a Badger, his current average of 2.6 steals per game is greater than that of Wisconsin’s all-time leader in that category in Mike Kelley, who averaged 2.1 steals per game in his career. While it is admittedly very early in his career, I see this number holding up and him ultimately passing Kelley.
While it is unclear if Davison will remain in the starting lineup, in my opinion, the newest fan favorite should as long as he is wearing the cardinal and white.
Regardless of whether he comes off the bench or starts, he is going to be hated by a lot of Big Ten opponents.