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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