Just because Micah Potter cannot participate in games this season for the Wisconsin Badgers does not mean he simply cannot contribute in some fashion to the program.
Now over a month since he has arrived in Madison after transferring from Ohio State to Wisconsin, the 6’9 forward helps prepare Ethan Happ, Nate Reuvers, and others for key upcoming match-ups.
“Once he got added to the team, coach [Greg] Gard said scout team got a little bit better today, or a lot better today, I think is what he said, and that’s very true,” Happ said on Monday. “He’s a very versatile big, which we see a lot of those, so being able to have him knock down threes but then also be very efficient in the post, that helps us prepare us for teams.”
So what makes him so tough? Like Happ, Reuvers pointed out Potter’s ability to shoot outside while having moves in the post, and also his two seasons of Big Ten action at Ohio State.
Potter played in 59 career games with 16 starts for the Buckeyes before announcing his intention to transfer from Columbus. According to Reuvers, competing against a player with that experience makes “you actually have to work a lot harder against him and be on your toes.”
Assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft echoed similar sentiments.
“I think just knowing the league, he came right at the perfect time in league play so he recognizes all the scouting reports because he’s been a starter in this league for two years, so just his experience alone has been great,” Krabbenhoft said on Monday. “His game definitely is great to add to the mix on the scout team because he can stretch the floor as a stretch big, and he’s a lot more physical than maybe we probably gave him credit coming in here. He’s been a load inside, and it’s been great to watch and work with.
“He’s definitely helped us. He’s made Ethan and Nate and Charlie [Thomas] and those guys who are going against him everyday better.”
Potter admitted to B5Q on Monday that it is tough to not be able to play in games, especially as a competitor, but he also understands his current role for the team in being “the best practice player that I can be.”
“I treat practices as my games, so I try to make them really competitive,” Potter said. “I try to play really hard and I try to play the scout as much as possible, but also kind of just play. Obviously with different scouting reports, I’m going to play different players and I try to emulate that as much as possible, but the biggest thing is just playing hard and being physical, emulating a game.”
That is his responsibility when playing on the scout team in preparing for each opponent. He points to his time at Ohio State that allows him to affect the games even before they are played.
“Obviously, I’ve been in the league for the last two-and-a-half years and so I know what it takes,” Potter said. “I know the physicality and the speed of the game, and so the biggest thing is to just try to emulate a game-speed situation every single rep in practice.”
When talking about Happ and Reuvers, Potter believes both complement each other well.
He described Happ, who currently leads the teams in points (19.8), rebounds (10.3), and assists (4.8) per game, as “an inside guy” while Reuvers—who has emerged of late to be a scoring threat when called upon—can step out and shoot away from the basket, making it hard to defend the duo.
“Obviously, Ethan’s an All-American and his finishing ability with both hands and his ability to handle the ball with his size and his footwork is second to none in the country,” Potter said. “Then obviously Nate, I mean when he does that pick-and-pop, he can get rid of that ball quickly. He’s got a really nice pump fake, so he gets you up in the air, he can drive past you one dribble pull-up, all that kind of stuff. It’s hard to guard but it’s fun because it’s giving me ideas of what I can do next year when I play.”
Wisconsin announced the addition of Potter to the men’s basketball program on Dec. 10, and the big man tweeted his arrival nine days later.
“Even from day one I came here and I couldn’t practice right away because I had to do my physical and stuff like that, but the guys accepted me, the coaches accepted me,” Potter said. “Then the next day, I was practicing and I felt like I was part of the team already, so it’s been very seamless.”
As a Buckeye, Potter averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season in 29 games (four starts). He recorded 4.1 points and 3.1 boards per contest as a freshman for the 2016-17 campaign.
Two key factors played into his decision to come to UW.
“Obviously, I wanted to go somewhere where I was going to fit with my skill set, and then culture,” Potter said. “Wisconsin’s culture, it has been established for a long time, and so just the guys that are here that I was going to be playing with the next two years, and just be able to build relationships with that. When I came on my official visit, I felt like at home. I mean, it just stood out to me. Campus is beautiful, obviously it’s a great basketball program, and the style of play fits my skill set perfectly, so it was pretty much a perfect fit.”
Potter can be added to Wisconsin’s active roster in December and will have the 2020 spring semester and 2020-21 season to compete in games. A UW official confirmed to B5Q on Wednesday that there is a plan to apply for a waiver for the forward to play the full 2019-20 season.
Once he is available in actual game time, Wisconsin expects to see Potter’s skill set and work ethic.
“I think he’s a guy who wants to come in and contribute in any way he can,” Krabbenhoft said. “He came here just open-minded and willing to help this team win, and that can come in different shapes and forms on both ends of the floor, but he’s a guy who’s going to bring it every day and contribute where the team needs. His mind is in the right place, that’s the best part about this, he came here to be a part of something special and when you have that mindset, you’re going to be willing to box out. You’re going to be willing to dive on the floor, set a great screen, and obviously as a versatile big, he can knock down shots and post up too, but I think just overall, every aspect of the game, he’s willing to help.”