Badger Berggren's game "a work in progress"
MADISON, Wis. -- Jared Berggren finds himself dealing with the kind of conundrum that can only be presented to a basketball player with his unique skill set. He is a 6-foot-10 center who loves to stand on the perimeter and shoot 3-pointers, yet he is a guy expected to dominate as a rebounder at Wisconsin.
Those two facets of the game typically are mutually exclusive, and Berggren is beginning to discover just how difficult it is to excel in both areas during the same game.
For example, in a game earlier this season against Missouri-Kansas City, Berggren scored a career-high 21 points and hit four 3-pointers. He also did not register a single rebound.
In a 50-45 victory against Nebraska on Sunday night, Berggren scored just nine points and shot 3-of-12 from the field. He also tallied a career-high 13 rebounds.
Plenty remains of this season, and Berggren realizes that striking the right balance between his perimeter and post-up games will help him become one of the better centers in the Big Ten.
"Sometimes it's a little bit of a roller coaster," Berggren said. "It's just part of trying to be tough every night, trying to be consistent. But I think I have made some strides."
This season marks the first time in Berggren's Wisconsin career that he has been expected to play full-time. The redshirt junior has responded by averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds. He also has scored in double digits 10 times in 19 games after reaching double figures just once in his career entering the season.
A year ago, Berggren played in 29 games but averaged just 6.9 minutes and 2.4 points per outing. He was stuck on the bench behind big men with a similar propensity for shooting jumpers in Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. With both players gone to graduation this season, Berggren recognized he would have to play a larger role.
"I wouldn't say I was ever nervous about it, but it was something where I kind of put a little bit of pressure on myself before," Berggren said. "I used it as motivation, too, to know that we lost good players on the front line from last year's team. There were some spots that needed to be filled. I just kind of look at it as an opportunity to step up and try to get the job done."
Berggren's athleticism surprises and often separates him from other post players during games. He set the school's post-player record for the 300-yard shuttle run as a sophomore and then broke his own record one year later.
He is capable of holding of his own against the best in college basketball thanks to that athleticism. When matched up against North Carolina's projected NBA lottery picks John Henson and Tyler Zeller earlier this season, he scored 14 points with five rebounds and three steals, helping to keep the Badgers in the game until the final minute.
"I just know Jared has always worked hard," Badgers forward Ryan Evans said. "When someone works hard, they're going to eventually get the opportunity to do their thing. Every time we go in the weight room, we kind of know as teammates, this guy never skips anything. He does stuff to his fullest ability."
Despite Berggren's success this season, he also calls himself a "work in progress" because there are other times when he fades from the spotlight. In a loss at Michigan last week, he scored a season-low three points.
His 3-point shooting also has gone into a tailspin recently. In Berggren's last five games, he is 3-for-18 from long-range. This season, he is shooting 34.8 percent on 3s (23-for-66) and 52.7 percent on 2s (57-for-108).
Badgers coach Bo Ryan has often said he coaches players to make good plays instead of great plays. And as long as Berggren fulfills his role without trying to do too much, Ryan will be happy with his play.
"There's no question we need a presence on the glass," Ryan said. "He's had some games where he shows those flashes. All we're trying to do with Jared, and Jared is trying to give to the team, is a consistent presence inside.
"He's also a much better shooter from the perimeter than he's shown in games. We're hoping that combo of his inside and outside presence on both ends of the floor keeps improving."
As long as Berggren receives an opportunity to play, he'll continue to search for the proper balance in his unique game.
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.