Monday, November 05, 2007

The Second Incarnation of Dirk Nowitzki

Seriously, that is what UW freshman Jon Leuer (apparently pronounced "Loo-er") looks like. According to various things I've read, Leuer was around 6'2" as a high school freshman, and played as a guard. Then he grew 9 inches. And he still plays like a guard. That is, like Dirk, the greatest German basketball player in the world, and a former NBA MVP. It's like a grown man playing on a 9 foot rim. The boy is big, 6'10" or 6'11", a good ballhandler, light on his feet, and a shooter. Last night, in the men's basketball Badgers exhibition opener against D-III Edgewood College, Leuer had several dunks, one off a drive from the wing, stole a pass at the top of the tey and ran down court for a lay in, and drained a three. His free throw stroke is nice and easy, like a guard's. As Bo said, "We told you he's a player. We didn't try and keep it a secret, you guys saw him. He has a feel for the game, as good as anybody I've seen as freshman." Indeed.

Leuer may have surpassed Landry for the "Badger with the most potential" designation. Hell, two guys may have bumped Landry, because Trevon "Pop" Hughes looks great. He is easily the best dribbler on the team in Bo's tenure as coach. I cannot remember another Badger who was as fluid and comfortable handling the ball. Maybe Tracy Webster. Plus, Hughes quickly pushed the ball up the court, made several nice passes for easy scores, drained a three, and pulled some hilarious moves to get to the basket, including one where he ran up the court against two Edgewood players, pulled away a little, until one of the defenders started looking for his man, then spun around the remaining guy for a reverse lay in. The team seems to be aware of how fast he is. On one memorable play, Hughes partially blocked an three point attempt from the top of the key, and took off running. Stiemsma jumped up and grabbed the missed shot; then, still while in mid-air, Greg hurled a two-handed pass over the Edgewood players, whom Hughes had left in the dust. The result was an easy lay in for Hughes off a nice instinctive pass from the Stiemer. Hughes rocks.

In fact, the guards generally look pretty rocking. Flowers was back, and was intense, as you'd expect. Some reports say he had four steals in fifteen minutes. I still have doubts about his shooting touch, but he had some nice drives, and he should be a great defender and leader this season. Both Flowers and Bohannon came off the bench, and both looked very confident and fluid. Bohannon might be a better ballhandler than Flowers, actually. He routinely dribbled into trouble, and then dribbled right out, or made excellent passes to cutting players-- once to Leuer for a dunk. And he continues to have an excellent shooting touch from all over the floor. As odd as it sounds given the presence of Butch, Krabbenhoft, and Landry, the strength of the Badgers this season may be in their guards-- Hughes, Flowers and Bohannon all look to be really good players: fluid, smart, and aggressive.

As for the rest of the team, Stiemsma seems more confident in his role-- he was quick to take his mid-range jumpers when they were there and stayed aggressive on defense. It'll be fun to see him defend some other big guys, like in UW's games against Duke, Texas and Indiana. Butch looks a bit quicker and ran the floor decently, finishing well on a great Hughes feed, and pulling an elaborate low post move for a bucket. Landry didn't get a lot of shots, but cleaned up around the basket for some points, and threw down a hard one-handed slam on a fast break. Krabbenhoft looked good and more confident. I'd still like to see him dunk someday, but he grabbed a bunch of boards, hit a three, and had a bunch of great hustle plays. He may very well lead the team in rebounding this season. Since minutes were spread around so thinly none of these guys really got the chance to show their stuff. As per usual, for most of the game the Badgers ran their offense, moving the ball around the perimeter, probing for openings, not forcing things to one player in particular.

The starters were Butch, Stiemer, Landry, Krabby and Hughes, but I doubt that will stay. Flowers will start when the regular season comes, hopefully with Hughes. And since the line up is in flux, I'm not going to guess at the starters. But I think it's safe to say the rotation will be as follows:
Backcourt-- Hughes, Flowers, Bohannon, and Krabby (swingman)
Frontcourt-- Butch, Landry, Stiemsma, Leuer, and Nankivil (occasionally)
Reserves-- Jarmusz (the third freshman and a possible redshirt candidate), Gullickson, Gavinski, Cain, Valentyn, Bronson

I know this first game was against Edgewood, of all schools, so we have no idea how the Badgers will look against other D-I teams. And I know many of these players are pretty green. But I feel good about the talent on hand, and the senior leadership in Flowers, Butch and Stiemsma. This team could make some noise this season.

The next exhibition game is Wednesday night at 8, against UW-Eau Claire, as further part of Bo's neat outreach project to the state's D-III teams. It'll be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network so set your Tivo's. Goodness, that channel rules. They appear to be broadcasting about 18 more Badger games this season, including the games against Georgia, at Illinois and at Indiana. Get Dish Network, people. Or DirecTV if you want NFL Sunday Ticket.

1 comment:

Papa Sal said...

A new reason for the band to play "Louie, Louie" at games?

Does he sing David Hasselhoff songs to keep his freethrow stroke smooth? If he's half as good as Dirk Diggler that will be a unexpected bonus player in the rotation..