After missing two games due to an upper-body injury that required 16 stitches, guard Max Klesmit is expected to play on Saturday for the Wisconsin Badgers against the Illinois Fighting Illini, head coach Greg Gard told reporters on Friday.
Klesmit was seen in practice Friday, which was Wisconsin’s first full practice since their game on Wednesday against the Maryland Terrapins, playing with high energy and serving as a key voice.
What are the Badgers getting with Klesmit’s return? Defense.
Speaking to reporters, Gard expressed the value of his guard’s defensive abilities, as well as the intangibles that include the loud voice at practice which adds energy to the team.
“Having him here at practice as the voice [has been huge]. [Getting him back], specifically defensively, you know, that’s why we recruited him. And that’s why he’s been starting for us. He brings some of those intangibles [and] he does a lot of things that they don’t keep stats on, you know,” Gard said.
Gard compared Klesmit’s value to the team to pastime Badgers Josh Gasser and Brad Davison, who played vital roles during their stints in Wisconsin.
Josh Gasser, ironically, was in my office last night, [and] he did that for the team. [Brad Davison] did that for that team. You know, so there’s things that you can impact and just [the] voice at practice today. On the whole, you can tell the difference within here.”
With the way that Wisconsin has appeared in tight games this season, and with the depth concerns they face, Gard understands that retaining any player is vital as the Badgers look to get out of their recent slump.
“It’s important [to get Max Klesmit back]. Our margin for error, as most teams, is thin anyway, so anytime you can get a guy back that has that experience, you know, and that type of voice, [it’s big]. Like I mentioned earlier, his voice here in practice has been noticeable just in one day.”
The Badgers face a tall task on Saturday, hosting an Illinois team that has won five of its past six games, en route to a 14-6 record, including a 5-4 conference record.
Getting Klesmit back should help them as they try and upset the Fighting Illini and snap their recent losing streak.