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Wisconsin counting on returns of Kobe King, D’Mitrik Trice to provide depth

Two returning guards can make an impact this season.

D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King each played only 10 games last year for the Wisconsin Badgers, their respective injuries hampering a roster replacing key seniors.

Now back for the 2018–19 season, both will be called upon to help and likely be key contributors as Wisconsin seeks a return to its winning ways.

Wisconsin sophomore guard Brad Davison believes their healthy returns—plus the addition of UW-Green Bay transfer Trevor Anderson, now eligible to play after sitting out last year per NCAA transfer rules—will provide significant depth.

“I think biggest thing is it raises the competition level,” Davison said last month at UW’s local media day. “Every drill and every scrimmage, you have someone that’s pushing you. That’s one thing that coach [Greg Gard] stresses.”

That was not necessarily the case last season. Trice underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot after averaging 9.4 points and 2.3 assists across his 10 games (all starts).

During a practice in early December, King fractured his patella as he “just drove the lane and did a jump stop and it just kind of popped.”

Trice’s injury forced Davison to move over to point guard and forced other players to step up.

Now with the duo returning, plus Davison himself back with two healthy arms after a nagging shoulder injury, that depth has returned.

“I think last year coach [Gard] was trying to find guys for minutes,” Davison said, “and this year, we got to find minutes for guys because we have a lot of guys that can play at a high level and so that’s huge for us. We’re really excited about that, especially in our league and as we go through the season, it will be a big advantage for our team.”

In Friday night’s exhibition against UW-Oshkosh, King and Trice flashed their valuable skill sets.

Trice, an on-the-court general, contributed nine points on 3-of-8 shooting with four rebounds and four assists in under 27 minutes in the 82–70 win over the NCAA Division III national runner-ups.

King scored nine points as well and showcased his multi-dimensional scoring ability, connecting on one of two three-point attempts, plus a step back jumper and a layup.

At media day, Gard mentioned the term “three-level scorer” when asked about King. He also noted how the La Crosse Central product took advantage of his time away, jumping into the weight room under strength coach Erik Helland’s direction and increasing his basketball IQ by seeing the game from a coach’s perspective.

“I think just physically, he’s better,” Gard said. “He’s a handful at times, he can make plays with the ball, he shoots it well. He can post. When he got hurt last year, he was just starting to figure out what we wanted defensively consistently. Obviously, his numbers, minutes, and production were both trending upward when he got hurt, so he just gives us another weapon that can help us on both ends of the floor.”

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

King, who averaged 5.2 points in 19 minutes per game before the injury, worked his way back to full contact in July, feeling more and more comfortable each week thereafter.

Trice said he was 100 percent back in May when he went home to Ohio to work out with his dad and older brother.

“I feel like normal,” Trice said. “I feel better than how I did before I got hurt, so I feel really good.”

When ask how the two had worked back into the flow of the team, Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore explained it was “like they never left.”

“They both were trending in a good direction before the injuries, especially Kobe, being in the position where coach [Gard] drew up the last play of the Temple game that he played in for him to get the game-winning shot, so that says a lot,” Moore said.

That also affords the Badgers the possibility of moving around some pieces on the court.

“Then there’s the situation of ‘Meech’ [Trice], being under the tutelage of Bronson [Kroenig] for a year and coming into last season as the starting point guard. Now we can probably slide Brad [Davison] over to a natural position for a little bit, but Brad got better. Brad’s going to be able to handle the point guard [position], even though it’s not full-time. Coach [Gard] will have that versatility on his time and this roster to maybe slide him over for a little bit, whether it’s situationally or if it’s something we want to take a good look at for a stretch.”

Trice did limp off the court during the second half of Friday’s exhibition, but Gard later said that his redshirt sophomore guard was fine and had just rolled an ankle.

Both players will be needed this season, especially with the depth of the frontcourt taking a hit with redshirt sophomore Aleem Ford undergoing knee surgery last month. Ford, the team’s leading three-point shooter last season, is out indefinitely.

On Friday night, Wisconsin unveiled a four-guard lineup at times. For that matter, the Badgers scored 28 fast-break points against the Titans. How much Gard utilizes that line-up remains to be seen heading into Tuesday’s season opener against Coppin State (7 p.m., BTN Plus).

With Trice and King, they have that versatility to do so. Both had to sit on the sidelines last season during Wisconsin’s disappointing 15–18 season. Now, both have the opportunity to provide a spark to the program after handling adversity.

“I mean, we were just always there for each other so if either one of us was ever down or upset, we always had each other’s backs,” King said. “We kind of had to go through it together at the same time. I mean, we talked a lot on the sideline during the games. We tried to pick apart what we could do here, so hopefully that can translate over to the court for both of us.”