MADISON – Micah Potter has been a member of Wisconsin’s scout team for a little more than two weeks, battling starters Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers in practice.
Early impressions have been favorable.
“The scout team got 110 percent better when he joined,” UW assistant Howard Moore said after practice Wednesday at the Kohl Center. “He is a mature player, physically and mentally. He is able to throw a body on Ethan and Nate and make them better. And they have to guard him.
“He is a better athlete than I thought he was. Very excited about the future with him.”
Potter, who played two seasons at Ohio State before choosing to transfer to UW over Vanderbilt, must sit out one season per NCAA rules.
That means he won’t be eligible to play until after the first semester of the 2019-’20 season.
Potter confirmed Wednesday, however, that UW officials are working on an appeal so he can play immediately next season.
“We’ll see what the best option is for me going forward,” he said, “but obviously the goal is to play immediately next year.”
For now, Potter’s job is to push Happ and Reuvers every day in practice.
Wednesday was the first day reporters were able to watch Potter work, and the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder was impressive.
He was able to score from the perimeter and the lane, attacked the basket on several drives and worked hard on defense.
“The biggest thing is that I’ve got to make sure these guys are ready for the next game,” Potter said. “Being in the league the last two years I know what it takes physically and mentally to get ready for these games. I’m just trying to do my job the best I can.”
Potter left Ohio State because he didn’t think his repertoire would be utilized in Ohio State’s offensive system. Potter believes he can play away from the basket, but his job with the Buckeyes was to play near the basket.
“It’s what they wanted for their offense,” he said. “But that just didn’t fit with my skill set. It is what it is. That’s life.”
When he looked at possible transfer destinations, he looked first for a team with a system that matched his skills and for a locker room in which he felt comfortable.
“But I also like to get other guys involved,” he said. “I don’t need to have the ball in my hands all the time. I like to pass the ball, move the ball, have fun and get other guys good shots.”
The manner in which Wisconsin uses its big men was attractive to Potter, who also felt comfortable during his visit in November.
“I felt like I was at home,” said Potter, whose primary recruiter was assistant Joe Krabbenhoft. “I felt I could relate to them.”
Happ, who redshirted his first year at UW, understands what Potter is going through this semester. Battle every day in practice knowing you could probably help the team but also knowing you have to wait until next season.
“The biggest thing is to be patient,” Happ said. “For me, when I was watching the games I felt like I could go out and help the team. I’m sure he feels that way, too.
“I think he is going to be a really good asset – coming off picking and popping and being bouncy around the rim.
“He can shoot from all over.”
Patience leads to points
Happ has acknowledged he sometimes rushes shots around the rim early in games as he works to figure out how teams are defending him.
His shooting numbers through four Big Ten games affirm his first-half struggles.
Happ is shooting 41.1 percent in the first half of league games (14 of 34) but is at 66.7 percent (20 of 30) in the second half.
A breakdown of the numbers follows.
Iowa – 2 of 5 in the first half; 4 of 5 in the second half.
Rutgers – 4 of 8 in the first half; 6 of 9 in the second half.
Minnesota – 3 of 6 in the first half; 5 of 7 in the second half.
Penn State – 5 of 15 in the first half; 5 of 9 in the second half.
“I’d like to see Ethan be more efficient,” head coach Greg Gard said. “Whether he gets sped up or he speeds himself up, I think it is a combination of the two. It is one of the things we talked about – just slow down
“That is one of the benefits of adding pump fakes. It forces you to slow down. … It makes the offensive player finish toward the backboard and toward your target vs. jumping out of bounds and avoiding contact.
“Good post players have a pace to them and they aren’t rushed.”
Ford hasn’t regained form
Gard gushed about how well redshirt sophomore forward Aleem Ford performed during preseason practice and then in a closed scrimmage against Iowa State.
But since suffering a knee injury that required surgery and forced him to miss UW’s first four games, Ford has yet to regain his preseason form.
Ford has gone scoreless in three of UW’s last four games, is averaging 3.3 points per game, shooting just 31.3 percent from three-point range and has yet to attempt a free throw.
“The biggest thing is to just continue to be aggressive,” Gard said. “Let it rip. Play freely. Don’t worry about things. Aleem hasn’t been the same since the injury. I haven’t seen the same player, even in practice.
“That is something he’s just got to continue to work (at), to get back into a rhythm and get some flow going. Knock down some shots and get to the free-throw line. He hasn’t been to the free-throw line all year.
“That is one thing we’ve tried to convince him that he’s got to be more of a three-point shooter. Try to find a way to get in the paint, get on the offensive glass. Find other ways to invigorate your offensive ability other than constantly hunting for threes.”