January 15, 2010

Gard impressed with Turner's improvement

MADISON - Wisconsin's first test without Jon Leuer was graded out with a 'W.' It may not have been the prettiest or most convincing win the Badgers have earned, but it was sufficient and efficient enough to claim victory.

For test No. 2, things get a bit tougher as UW heads to Columbus to take on a revitalized Ohio State squad with its leader Evan Turner back in tact. Before Saturday night's game, however, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Greg Gard, a long time Badger assistant coach.

The following is the transcript of the question and answer I had with Gard.

Over the recruiting trail, I know you guys were pretty close with Evan (Turner). Did you sense that he was going to be a great player?

Gard: No. I don't think anybody did. You knew he had a chance, but I don't think you could ever project somebody that is going to be the likes of one of the top players in this league. You don't know how people are going to develop and grow and he got better. He wasn't that dominant, he was a good player in high school, but it wasn't like he was that dominant.

He definitely has matured and grown into that. On top of it, he's a great kid. He's a great person that's handled things the right way and competes and has a smile on his face. But he wants to kick your butt at the same time.

Wednesday night against Northwestern and their zone, you guys had your way rebounding towards the end of the game. I think you had 11 straight. Going against Ohio State and similar type of zone, is that kind of momentum moving forward?

Gard: Well, they've moved away from the zone. They don't play it as much. They played some against Purdue, but for the most part they've been man to man. They'll sprinkle in some zone here or there, but they do a little better job in terms of compressing the court. Maybe it won't extend as much as what Northwestern did.

They have some bigger bodies at times physically, some wider guys that take up some more space. So it will be different. It's somewhat of the same, but it's a little different in terms of what they try to force you to do and what they take away from you. I would expect to see a little bit, but I know they have been trying to play a little more man. At least that's what it looks like on film.

Going out to their arena, it's a lot similar to the Kohl Center. Do you get the sense that the players are pretty comfortable playing out there?

Gard: Well, we try to be comfortable wherever we're at.

Just the familiarity?

Gard: I don't know if where you're at (matters). It's still a matter of what gets done between the lines. Where you're at really doesn't make a difference I don't think. Obviously they have a nice venue, a newer venue and the layout is similar, the backgrounds are similar to what it is here.

But I don't think that will have any difference. It's going to be what the guys in the white jerseys are doing against the guys in the red jerseys. What happens in the surrounding usually doesn't play too much of a role in it.

Obviously with the injury to Jon, you guys started three guards on Wednesday night. They played 117 out of a possible 120 minutes. Is there any worry moving forward that these guys will start to wear down if they're getting that many minutes?

Gard: When you're 21 or 22 years old you can play all day. They played all day in high school in high school and they played five games in AAU in a day. You're smart about it in your preparation, but these guys are pretty highly conditioned. They've played a lot of basketball in their life and they understand what it's all about.

They want to play, so you try to sub when you can sub. Obviously the situations dictate what we're going to do. You just go with the flow. That's the best way to put it. You have a plan, and kind of an idea, but sometimes they can be thrown out the window as the game goes along.

When you look at Jordan Taylor's game at Northwestern-seven assists no turnovers in his first start nonetheless-I know he's been getting a lot of time, but are you impressed with that performance?

Gard: I guess knowing him as long as I have known him I'm not surprised because that's just how he is. He's very levelheaded, very smart and very poised. So starting to him probably wasn't a big deal.

It's just a matter of him saying, 'okay, I don't have to get tight on the bench.' So he handled it very well, he's very sharp. He's got a bright future in front of him no matter what he does after basketball because he just approaches things the right way and always has.

That's what we saw with him in high school and through the recruiting process that made us think he's got the moxie and the wherewithal to become a pretty good player because of how he approaches the game and his mindset. He thinks about things the right way and approaches things the right way.

When you look at Jason Bohannon's stats over the past two games with 39 points, I think he's only had three three-pointers. Is that kind of a byproduct from Jordan running the point and maybe freeing him up?

Gard: I think Jason has done a good job of taking what's available to him. Whether it's threes are taken away or he has open threes, he's been smart and aggressive in terms of how he's trying to help this offense. He's been unselfish, kicks it when he has to and passes it.

I think it's just a product of him becoming a senior and knowing that he's in a position to help lead the team and make plays or whatever it takes for us to be successful. He's willing to do (that).

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