MADISON - Tired of seeing senior forward Ryan Evans miss free throws and having the media ask him about it, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan decided to have some fun with reporters Sunday while trying to jumpstart Evans’ confidence from the line. He appeared to get both.
As Evans started shooting jump shots on his free throws with associate head coach Greg Gard at the end of practice, Ryan told one of his assistants to watch the reaction of the media.
“If you could see all the media people on the sidelines with their phones tweeting,” said Ryan with a smile.
The slump of Evans has been baffling all season for Wisconsin (19-8, 10-4 Big Ten), which moved up two spots to No.17 in the Associated Press poll Monday. After shooting 72.6 percent and 81.1 percent in conference play last season, Evans is shooting 40.5 percent (51 of 126) in 2012-13, a mark that includes multiple airballs and bank shots.
Evans might break out the jumper if the opportunity presents itself Tuesday against Nebraska (13-14, 4-10), especially since he was hitting the shot consistently with Gard. That unusual move wouldn’t be a surprise to Ryan, who cited 10-time NBA All-Star Hal Greer as another player who successfully executed the jump shots from the free throw line.
“(Hal) felt it was his best chance of making the shot,” said Ryan, as Greer shot 80.1 percent during his 15-year career. “Ryan’s tried that method and feels that right now that’s the best method to make the free throw. It’s not that unusual to have a different style. Whatever works as long as he believes it.”
Growing up in Chester, Pa., Ryan also referenced another Pennsylvanian, the late Wilt Chamberlin, who would take a running start and dunk the ball on his free throw attempts in high school; a rule that was later changed to prevent those athletic enough from do so.
“He was that athletic for his size,” said Ryan of Chamberlin.
Wisconsin’s final home game is Sunday against Purdue (13-14, 6-8) and expecting to keep with tradition, the Badgers will honor the senior class before the game with an on-court introduction and a post-game video tribute.
This year’s class is five strong with Evans, Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise.
“They’ve answered the challenge that the other seniors ha of setting a good example, working hard and preserving,” said Ryan. “Who has preserved harder than this group?”
Not only has Wisconsin overcome major injuries this season, including a severe leg injury and concussion for Bruesewitz, but Berggren overcame shoulder troubles through his redshirt freshman and sophomore season to lead the team this season with 11.9 points per game.
“They’ll never stop, because they know when they’re 40 they’ll still have struggles they are working on,” said Ryan. “That’s the great thing about team sports.”
Ryan also acknowledged the work of Fahey and Wise, who have worked exclusively on the scout team over the past four seasons.
“There is never a whine, never a complaint, never an anything other than (saying) to the assistant coaches, ‘OK, what would you like us to do today?’” said Ryan. “Hopefully they are getting as much out of the experience as we are receiving by their efforts they are putting in … It’s a win-win.”
Ryan Checks in on Harris
Enjoying his final weekend off during the basketball season, Ryan spent Saturday afternoon watching Milwaukee Hamilton junior forward Kevon Looney score 36 points in a WIAA tournament victory and Sunday evening watching a former Milwaukee player in Devin Harris.
Harris was in town with the Atlanta Hawks and scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting in a 103-102 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The Bucks asked me not to come back again to see any former players,” Ryan said, joking. “That was a heck of a game.”
Playing for his fourth NBA team since being drafted fifth overall after leaving UW following his junior 2003-04 season, Harris is averaging 8.8 points in 37 games this season.
“He hasn’t changed,” said Ryan of Harris. “He’s just a delight to be around, loves the game of basket (and) gives back to Milwaukee and Madison in different ways. It is fun. Who would have thought that a coach would have a weekend free to see him play?”