October 22, 2010

Leuer learns from USA Select Team

MADISON -- While summer means a time to relax for most college students, it's a time for hard work and improvement if you're a member of a Division I basketball program.

After he spent the summer competing against NBA competition as a part of the USA Men's Select Team, senior forward Jon Leuer has shown significant improvement as Wisconsin began practicing last week.

In fact, he's gotten so much better that it's frustrating for teammates like sophomore Mike Bruesewitz to guard Leuer in practice.

According to Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, a lot of that has to do with Leuer's approach to the unique opportunity to compete against Team USA on a daily basis for Villanova's Jay Wright and Washington's Lorenzo Romar.

"Jon was smart in that he went there with the idea that he could learn something and get better," Ryan said. "Some guys are asked to those things and then guys are going to say, 'OK, I'm going to prove I can beat the world, I'm going to get a potential contract and get noticed.

"Jon went in there with the idea that he knew he was going to try to help those guys get better, and he did, and that he was there to listen to Coach Wright and to Coach Romar. They just loved him for that."

While it may not be much consolation for guys like Bruesewitz, Leuer likely went through much of the same thing over the summer as they are now.

In fact, one player in particular really stood out to Leuer as he did his best to cover him.

"Kevin Durant. He's the best player I've seen," Leuer said. "He's just so long and athletic and he can score so easily. He's pretty much impossible to guard. The scary thing is, he can still get better, too. Just trying to guard him every day was a challenge.

"I'm glad I don't have to face him in the Big Ten."

Going against Durant was a challenge for Leuer, much the way it has now become a stiffer challenge for Leuer's teammates facing him in practice.

Of course, there's plenty to take away from such challenges. If he went in with the mentality of learning from the best, what exactly did Leuer take away from the experience?

"First and foremost, I learned I can compete against those guys, which moving forward, gives me confidence that I know I can play against those guys," Leuer answered. "It definitely gives you some confidence, knowing that you could do that against some of those guys.

"At the same time, every time you step on the court, it's going to be a challenge and you've got to be willing to work hard and put forth the effort. It doesn't matter what I did this summer."

Now that he's back to facing collegiate competition, Leuer will look to take his experience against Durant and other members of the 2010 FIBA world champion United State squad. And if he can successfully compete with established NBA big men, what Big Ten forward will be able to consistently stop Leuer?

Add on the fact that a number of Badgers have put together their best seasons as seniors, and Leuer appears to be poised for big things this year. But as a senior leader at Wisconsin, Leuer's focus is not only on himself, either.

"As a senior, that's kind of what you're called upon to do, is step into a leadership role and me and the six other seniors, that's what we're trying to do," Leuer said. "We know that this is our last go 'round, and it's our job as seniors to kind of step into a leadership role and push the other guys and set a good example for them."

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