Reserve center Evan Anderson practices, prepares for chance

MADISON, Wis. — Evan Anderson didn’t trick himself into
believing he’d suddenly leapfrog teammates and emerge as Wisconsin’s starting
center this season. The Badgers have too many good players, he said, to make
such a scenario realistic.

Still, as a 6-foot-10, 245-pound load of a man in the post,
he figured perhaps a way existed for him to add value on game days this season.
Spell starter Frank Kaminsky for a few minutes each night. Block a shot. Grab
an offensive rebound and keep a play alive. The sort of stuff that doesn’t draw
fan hysterics but would be plenty satisfying for Anderson and his workmanlike
attitude.

Instead, playing time hasn’t come together the way Anderson
hoped it might before the year. For another season, Anderson has been forced to
embrace the value of doing his part to help the team, even if takes place in
practices — far away from the thousands of fans who come to support Wisconsin
at the Kohl Center.

“You do think of things behind closed doors, and we do
put in a lot of work behind closed doors,” Anderson said. “At the
same time, if you’re not playing, there’s so many other good things you can get
from having this experience and being committed to a team and putting all that
work in that people don’t see. It’s just becoming a man and things that maybe
people don’t think about when they’re just watching the game.”

Anderson, a redshirt junior from Stanley, Wis., has appeared
in four games this season and played a total of 10 minutes. And though he isn’t
a regular rotation player, he has remained upbeat that a role might yet materialize.
Last Saturday, for example, Kaminsky picked up two fouls, and Anderson found
himself in the game for three minutes against in-state rival Marquette during
the first half.

Kaminsky sat out Thursday’s practice with a right foot
injury and is listed as day-to-day. If, for some reason, he can’t play Saturday
against Eastern Kentucky, Anderson could again be thrust into limited duty.

“That’s a hard position to be in because you never
know,” Badgers associate head coach Greg Gard said. “Mentally, you’ve
got to keep yourself tuned in because you never know when somebody turns an
ankle, somebody gets in foul trouble like what happened Saturday, you can be in
there with little notice and little preparation.

“You may not be with the regular group for a couple
weeks. Then all of a sudden, bang, you’re in there for whatever reason. To keep
yourself mentally disciplined enough to stay focused, that’s a huge
challenge.”

One frequent bugaboo for Anderson during his career has been
foul trouble. He has played a total of 82 career minutes and committed 25
fouls, just less than one every three minutes. Kaminsky has played 307 minutes
this season and committed 24 fouls.

During the Marquette game, Anderson picked up three fouls in
three minutes and was replaced by reserve Zach Bohannon, who has played only
eight minutes all season.

“I was a little too aggressive,” Anderson said.
“To me, watching from the side all this time, watching against Michigan
State and some teams that have big, strong guys, I didn’t think there was
really a limit to the physicality. This year, they changed the rules and I
understand them, and you’ve just got to try to adjust to them. So I’ve really
got to maybe tone it down a little bit with the physicality. But I like to bump
around in the post. That’s kind of what I’ve always done and I’ve been kind of
good at it.”

Anderson’s size made him one of the top center prospects in
the country in high school for the Class of 2010. Scout.com rated him as a
four-star prospect and the No. 16 overall center out of Eau Claire North. He
garnered scholarship offers from the likes of Wisconsin, Marquette, Boston
College and Iowa State.

But the transition from simply being bigger than everybody
in high school to earning minutes in college has proven to be quite a task.
Anderson has worked on his footwork and agility to give himself a chance. And
he admits he has become a much better basketball player from all his hard work.

Although playing time has eluded him, Anderson said he never
considered the prospect of transferring. He said he took his first unofficial
visit to Wisconsin’s campus at age 13 and knew that if he were ever offered a
scholarship, he would stay as long as he could. Two players, Jarrod Uthoff and
George Marshall, have transferred out of the program over the past two years to
seek more minutes elsewhere.

“A lot of guys have done that,” Anderson said.
“I’ve just been committed here since I’ve been kind of in middle school.
It’s been that long ago. I’ve just been committed here the whole time and I
just haven’t even thought of going anywhere else to play. If I’m not playing
basketball, it’s not going to be because I’m anywhere else. So I’m just
committed to this place and trying to give these guys something.”

In the meantime, Anderson will continue to improve his lean
muscle mass, stamina and speed in the background while waiting his turn. He
never knows if his time will arrive, but he maintains hope that it will before
his career is over.

“He’s been a great teammate,” Gard said.
“He’s never complained. He’s come to work every day and done a great job
academically. Just wants the team to be successful. Obviously, I know he’d like
to play more. And we all wish we could be in a position where he could play
more. And maybe in some situations, it’ll work itself out. But at the same
time, he understands where he’s at and how he can continue to help the program.
He’s done it in a very positive way.”

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