His teammates have started calling him Captain America, but they've got the nickname all wrong.
If you're going to choose a Marvel Avengers comparison for Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser, how do you not go with Iron Man?
With his 127th start in Saturday's win over Northwestern, the fifth-year senior broke the all-time program mark established by Badger great Alando Tucker. Give him four more games and Gasser will also top Tucker's record for most minutes played in Wisconsin history. That's an ironman.
Not a bad accomplishment for a guy who was offered by his home state school as a walk-on originally. But Gasser kept improving. The offer was upgraded to a 5-for-4 scholarship deal, with UW strapped for available scholarships. If the Diamond Taylor incident that opened up a full ride never had occurred, Gasser might have gone to Maryland or Northwestern and the course of Wisconsin basketball history would not be the same.
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Oh, and not bad for a guy who blew up his left knee (damage to his ACL, MCL and LCL) almost two-and-a-half years ago, an injury that put the rest of his career in peril.
"He's, as they say, Captain America," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan told BTN's Dave Revsine this week, "but Josh is the guy that is the glue of this team, and I don't know where we'd be without him."
These days, though, you won't find a more inseparable player-team combination. Gasser is Badger basketball. Tough as nails, unselfish, smart, skilled, and an extension of his head coach.
Gasser's greatest attributes don't often get counted in glamorous columns on the stat sheet, but some do. Besides notching the program's first triple-double (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) on January 23, 2011 at Northwestern, Gasser has developed into a feared spot-up assassin from three-point land, taking a cue from his former roommate Ben Brust. The Port Washington, Wis. native is shooting for his third-straight season shooting better than 42 percent from long range.
I glossed over Gasser when reviewing individual scoring assaults on the record books, but it's appropriate because Gasser deserves a column of his own.
Not only will Gasser likely finish in the top ten for career three-point shooing percentage, but he's virtually locked up a top four position with his career 84 percent clip from the free throw line. And he's 23 points, five assists and just one rebound from joining Michael Finley as the only players in Wisconsin history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists in a career.
Perhaps even more remarkable is Gasser's career assist-to-turnover ratio. Although his assist numbers are down he has actually improved on his ratio thanks to 31 assists and 10 turnovers. For his career, Gasser has an A:TO ratio firmly entrenched at over 2.1-to-1, which would place him behind Jordan Taylor and Mike Kelley as one of the best in Badger history.
"If you dug down deep into the foundations of this program, and what was at the core, you'd find Josh's definition in terms of everything he brings," associate head coach Greg Gard said. "Toughness, leadership, work ethic. Does whatever is in the best interest of the team."
Maybe Gasser's firepower cannot necessarily match up with Marvel's Iron Man -- after all, he scored 21 points in his collegiate debut on seasons ago and hasn't touched 20 in any game since. But ever since he took the court alongside Taylor, Jon Leuer and company in his first game back on November 14, 2010, Gasser has been the heart and soul of this team. The ultimate competitor.
So if you ever see Gasser in Madison or at Fish Days over in Port, say hello and thank him for being some kind of a Wisconsin basketball superhero. Take your pick.
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