Posts tagged ‘Basketball’


Badger Team: Next National Champ

What does it take to be a national champion in college basketball? Since Bo Ryan coached four national title teams in Div. III at UW-Platteville between 1991 and 1999, I’m sure he knows, and I suspect he is well-aware his current Badger squad has a real chance to go all the way in Div I.

This season, Wisconsin already demonstrated a physical ability, as they defeated some of the best, with wins over Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Michigan St., Oregon and now Arizona. The Badgers are tough enough to get the job done. Against Oregon, Dekker took hard blow to the jaw, and Jackson was literally thrown to the floor, but they got back up. They moved on.

Wisconsin is tough, because each starter can sink 3-point shots. Our smothering defense keeps most at bay. Even when an aspiring NBA player, like Joe Young of Oregon, tallies up 29 points (unconsciously and with his eyes closed I might add) the Badgers still win, because they avoid turnovers, draw fouls, sink free throws, work the clock, and confuse opponents with a well-balanced attack. Since no one knows which Badger may lead the scoring on a given day, opponents have a hard time defensively.

Even though UW has the physical ability to win it all, it won’t happen now at the Final Four level, unless we gain a psychological edge, by getting our minds right. TV talking heads, who know little about UW, will pigeonhole our guys, and after Arizona, they’ll talk up Kaminsky, as if he was the only Badger all season. They’ll ignore Brust, Gasser, Dekker and Jackson, as if they weren’t even on the court. But our guys can’t let that kind of talk get into their heads. Frank should never even think his performances alone will determine the outcome. It’s too heavy a burden to carry. Likewise, Ben, Josh, Sam and Traevon can never be led to believe they can be mediocre, since the media declared Frank will do it all. All five Badgers are equally essential to a win, and if one isn’t playing well, the other four must pick up the slack.

What most outsiders don’t know is the Badgers are a team of five players. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. Wisconsin had a great season as a team. They advanced to the Final Four as a team. Now, if they continue to play as a team, they will win the National Championship. PS: Bo: No more technicals!


From Freedom Rides To Basketball

A TV program on PBS last night, entitled Freedom Riders, was a excellent 2-hour special regarding the courageous black and white students, who risked their lives in places like Alabama and Mississippi in 1961, to integrate commercial busing in the South.

Although I cannot comment on the Freedom Rides, since I was in grade school in Wisconsin at that time, I will share an integration story that happened just a few years later, after the Civil Rights Movement spread into the North, when my coach took me into Milwaukee to participate in an integrated basketball game.

Everyone in my suburban Milwaukee hometown in 1965 was white. The only black I had ever seen as a kid was Hank Aaron, who played for the Milwaukee Braves, and my only observations of him were from the left field bleachers. Unlike my hometown, Milwaukee’s inner city was black. Although segregation was not official policy, it was customary that the races simply did not mix.

My school sought to break down racial barriers and to change the culture by scheduling an integrated basketball game, between our all-white squad, and an all-black team. Since it would have been too controversial for the blacks to travel in our all-white suburb, the game was played at the Cherry Street School in Milwaukee.

The first thing I noticed as we walked out onto their old basketball court was the shape of it. A normal court is rectangular, with one basket on each end. Their court was too narrow to play the long way, so two buckets were attached to the same wall, and a triangle was painted on the floor between them. Local rules required players to dribble or pass the ball, in a semi-circular fashion around the triangle, in order to get from one basket to the other. A ball thrown over the triangle, or dribbled on it, was deemed out-of-bounds. I realized they had a major home-court advantage.

Before the game, someone informed us we would be shaking their hands, but we were told not to worry, as they said this act would cause no harm. The game itself was close, but at the final buzzer, a black kid sank a shot from the apex of the triangle (downtown), and they won. We shook hands and returned to our white homes. I met my first blacks, played them, and learned they were human. It was just one game, but a positive lifelong lesson in race relations.

Unfortunately, times changed again in 1967 and 1968, as peaceful efforts at integration were replaced by rage. While 1967 was the Summer of Love in some places, rioting led to an area-wide 24-hour curfew in Milwaukee. By 1968, all talk of integration ended.

Back in the day, I learned not all steps towards integration needed to occur through violence on buses, or by federal legislation. In my case, all it took was an idea, a basketball, and a hand shake.