Badgers players answer questions in Texas ahead of big game

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ARLINGTON, TEXAS (WITI) — Wisconsin Badgers players answered questions in Arlington, Texas — ahead of their big Final Four game vs. Kentucky on Saturday, April 5th. The Badgers and the Wildcats tip off at 7:49 p.m. inside AT&T Stadium.

Q.  For Traevon Jackson, as it is said, y’all are the best offense in 20 years, how does that feel?  You’re averaging 73.9 points per game and how does that feel to be here in the Final Four as a team? 

TRAEVON JACKSON:  Honestly, I think that that is a big testament to our defense, because you can’t get into the opportunities that you want to do in terms of offensively if you’re not handling defensively.  So we’re a versatile team, we like to share the ball, very confident in one another.  I get on guys when they pass up open shots.  They get on me the same type of way.  So we’re just versatile.  It’s good to play with guys like that.

Q.  Frank, I’m curious, a long time ago, Bo remembered there was a guy at Kentucky who is no longer with us named Melvin Turpin.  In high school, he couldn’t walk and chew game, and he eventually became a great basketball player.  Big guys develop late.  When you started, was it easy?  Was it tough for you?  Did you have trouble walking and chewing gum and now you can obviously play?  A lot of big guys it takes a long time. 

FRANK KAMINSKY:  It was difficult growing so much so fast.  My biggest battle was with doorways.  I used to hit my head on everything.  Learning to duck was my first big battle.  But I knew once I conquered that, that I would be good going forward.

Q.  Josh, you’ve had some tough defensive assignments in the regional out there, but I’m sure you’ll acknowledge you haven’t hit the shots that you wanted to.  Has it been just missing shots or some shots selection? 

JOSH GASSER:  Definitely just missed a couple that I am confident in making.  Teammates are probably confident in me as well in making them.  You take a couple shots a game and you’re not going to make them all.  But the worst thing you could do is to lose your confidence and to lose the other stuff that you could help your team out. So I’m just trying to focus on helping my team out anyway I can, defensive side of the ball, rebounding, being unselfish, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.

Q.  For Frank, I talked to Josh and Sam about this, but, of course, last week you mentioned the whole white guy thing.  Do you think there’s a form of disrespect because guys will see you guys come on the court and it’s like, Oh, well, these white boys can’t play?  But at the same time, you guys go out and you show that you’re just as athletic and as talented as everyone else. 

FRANK KAMINSKY:  Obviously, I said it last week, sometimes we kind of fail that eye test.  I know that me personally, I’ve heard comments about how I look like I’m asleep all the time.  I don’t know where that came from. But, you know, it doesn’t matter once the game starts.  It doesn’t matter what we look like.  It matters how we play.  I think we have been playing our best basketball of the year.  So people can say we look like this and we look like that, we look like a bunch of white guys, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

COACH RYAN:  And, please, everybody remember the question was asked of the players.  If somebody were to say about you, How would you be described?  So that’s the way Frank answered, because they have all heard it.  So just so they know, because they weren’t there, not all of them.

Q.  Sam and Frank, John Calipari was in here earlier and compared the defense that Julius Randle has faced to that that Shaq would have faced with three players on him frequently.  Do you see him as that kind of challenge and what is your impression of him overall? 

SAM DEKKER:  Obviously, Julius is a very good player.  You got to respect everything he’s been doing on the floor this year.  He’s going to be a test.  He’s a good player.
But just like I said last week, with some of the guys we faced, as competitors, you want to play against the best players in the nation, and I think Julius Randle is one of them.  He’s proven it.  As a competitor you want to go up against that and you want to see what you can do and you want to get a win over those guys. So I’m going to be working for that.  Frank and all these guys are going to be working for that, too.  We respect Kentucky very much, and we see them as one of the best teams in the nation.  They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.  We’re excited for the test and excited for the battle.

FRANK KAMINSKY:  Like Sam said, Julius is one of the best players in the nation.  There’s a reason he is talked about so much.  He’s a difficult matchup for anybody who he’s going against.  Obviously teams have to throw things at him that he hasn’t seen before to try to throw him off his game, and hopefully we can do that.  We can try and frustrate him, because he’s a very important piece for their success.  If we get a player like that a little frustrated, it will be good for us.

Q.  For you, after you lost five of six coming off starting 16‑0, how did you get the guys to turn it around?  And for this group, specifically, how did you get everybody to buy in?

COACH RYAN:  Well, first of all, I made sure that in any conversations, that it could have been at any time during the year those five teams that we played, where we played them, when we played them, whatever, could have been spread throughout the season and you still end up whatever we ended up at the end of the regular season.
So you don’t make too much about how many in a row or whatever.  We had a year where we lost six in a row and then came back and won seven of our next eight.  I think it was 2009 or 2010.  I can’t remember.  But it was let’s take a look at the reasons that we’re not getting it done. There was some things that we worked on more conscientiously about transition defense, going over on screens.  But it wasn’t anything that we hadn’t done before.  It’s just some teams did some things where they exposed weaknesses and we didn’t shoot it well.  The same shots we were making in the 16 games before and the 10 games after, if we took a shot chart and we looked at all of the shots and said, These aren’t any different, it’s just in that spell, it was a batting slump for a baseball player, but it was three or four players rather than just one guy having a batting slump. So then we got back to the mean and it worked out for us.  Then we regained some confidence, which always helps.  We got to the free‑throw line.  Another reason our scoring is up is because we shot more free throws this year, made more free throws.  So that increases, obviously, your yearly output.  But we didn’t panic.  We just made sure we stayed true to who we were.

Q.  Josh and Sam, first off, any memories from that 2000 Wisconsin Final Four run and just what it means to be a Wisconsin player, being able to take a part of this historical run for this program. 

SAM DEKKER:  Well, I was five, five or six, so I don’t really remember it.  That stuff doesn’t really stick out in my mind. But it’s an honor to be part of this.  Growing up in Wisconsin, you watch the Badgers all the time and your family is Badger fans, the whole city.  So it’s an honor to be a part of this and to put that jersey on every night and just realize what it represents.  To when coach extended that offer to me, I couldn’t pass it up. So it’s a dream come true for me.  And to be in this position with these guys, it’s a dream come true.  I’m very honored and I’m not going to take it for granted.

JOSH GASSER:  I really don’t remember it much either.  I remember some of the guys on the team, but I think the big reason is that it’s because they made it to the Final Four.  So I think that’s kind of something that we can always take with us. People remember this team for awhile, but we’re not quite finished with that goal yet.  We still got a few more games to play here hopefully.  It’s an unbelievable experience to be here and to be able to play in front of our fans and have all the support that we have gotten all year.  It’s just awesome.