The Wisconsin men’s basketball team rolled up to Williams Arena Tuesday
night for their dress rehearsal in the historic barn. A prelude to
Wednesday night’s showdown with the Gophers, the Badgers spent two
hours practicing and shooting in the foreign venue. Perhaps most
importantly though, Wisconsin used the opportunity to break in the
freshmen with one of the program’s honored traditions… diving off the
Williams Arena is best known for its unique elevated court that rises
three feet off the building’s floor. Both team benches and the
bleachers are positioned well below the court, which makes for an
interesting spectator view, but also presents an interesting challenge
for the players. Anytime there is a loose ball heading out of bounds,
it can seem like quite a drop off the “stage” into an unforgiving crowd.
Tuesday night, Bo Ryan put his newcomers through a Wisconsin ritual of diving for a loose ball and rolling off the court.
“You can’t be timid in a new environment,” Ryan told the players. “You
have to know what to expect if you have to go diving off the floor for
a loose ball and you have to know how to roll off the floor and protect
yourself. You can’t expect the fans to help break your fall.”
One-by-one Coach Ryan rolled the ball across the baseline as the
freshmen dove and practiced landing safely on the floor below.
Sophomore Wquinton Smith along with freshmen Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, Ian Markolf, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson all took their lumps and lived to tell about it.
“This was the best class we’ve had, by far,” senior Joe Krabbenhoft
said. “Usually guys dive and then just slowly roll off the floor but
these guys got after it. They all sprinted to the ball and went
crashing off the edge of the floor.”
Taylor got high praise for his all-out effort (as seen in the photo at
top). Coach Ryan warned trainer Henry Perez-Guerra that he may want to
back up when the 7-foot, 270-pound Markolf went tumbling over the side.
Berggren, the other freshman big man, was forced to slide off the court
twice after missing ball on his first diving save attempt.
With Wisconsin’s recent success at Minnesota – five wins in its last
six visits – any and all traditions at Williams Arena are alive and