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October 11, 2018

Greg Gard

Madison Square Garden - New York, New York

THE MODERATOR: Joining us we today is Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard.

Gard is in his fourth season at the helm of the Badger program, leading them to the NCAA tournament twice. Wisconsin is returning all five starters from last year's team, including unanimous pre-season all Big Ten selection Ethan Happ.

Coach, start with an opening statement, we'll open the floor for questions.

GREG GARD: Thank you.

We're about 11 days into practice. Excited about our group. Really they've come to work every day. Obviously as you just heard we have pretty much everybody back from last year. To be able to start, hit the floor running, so to speak, how they've competed in drill work, how they competed in some short scrimmage situations we've been in, competition has been extremely high.

It's a group that's really hungry and eager, obviously having that much experience back has helped us expedite things through the pre-season, albeit you take it step by step. We're excited about where we're at. The potential for this group, where they go, how they can grow, looking forward to continuing to grow through the rest of this month and jump into games in November.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. Ethan Happ has grown every season, spiking to over 35% last year, you have guys coming back from injury, any reason you think that trend won't continue this year?
GREG GARD: In terms of growing?

I think obviously you have a young man that brings a lot of experience back. Just looking through things with him statistically, what he's done for this program, he's going to go down as one of the best that's ever played statistically at Wisconsin, obviously his impact on and off the floor has been tremendous.

But also he does, as you mentioned, we have a lot more pieces around him that can come to his aid and his assistance. I think that's a natural progression that when you have a new group together on the floor, the older guy, the more experienced guy, carries more of the load early. I think we saw more balance as we went through the year, started to balance out a little bit as obviously we worked into February.

But I know he's excited about the guys that are around him this year, but also we understand how much of an impactful player he is, how good he can be. We'll definitely try to utilize him the best we can. He has great teammates around him, too.

Q. Talk about the off-season for Brad Davison. He had shoulder injury last year, was able to overcome that, playing through pain. What kind of development do you hope he makes this year, obviously healthy?
GREG GARD: Well, I think obviously you mentioned the shoulder injury, he had repaired right away as soon as our season was over last March. He's gone through an extensive rehab process and doing some really good things.

I think the thing that jumps out about Brad, that shines with him everywhere, is his personality, his leadership ability, his communication ability, how he relates to whether it's upperclassmen, players about his age, student-athletes that are younger, how he's taken the freshmen under his wing. Just his personality that everybody sees on the floor is the same thing that resonates throughout the other courses of his day, hours in his day.

He's impactful in so many ways. His fingerprints were all over the improvement and how we played at the end of the year. I know he's excited to be healthy and to have, as I mentioned talking about Ethan, having guys returning around him that can utilize the experience that they gained last year, put us in position to have a great experience this year.

Q. Can you talk about the motivation from the guys and from the program after last year not making the tournament in 20 years, talk about the atmosphere and the motivation coming into this season, what that feels like for the team.
GREG GARD: Yeah, I think you utilize and you reflect and you learn, albeit quickly on what we went through last year, you utilize those experiences to improve yourself, to grow. This group has done a terrific job of kind of harnessing what we went through last year, learning from it, how they were able to play down the stretch, play pretty well. How do you take all those experiences and utilize those through the off-season, but also getting back here this fall, getting into drills, official practices? We started last week.

There's an experience level that they went through last year that's created an edge to them, created a competitive drive internally. Having more guys back, more healthy bodies, it's made practices much more competitive. Obviously we're in a position where we have more bodies. That in itself raises the level by how we're able to compete and practice with each other.

It's a learning experience, something that obviously you go through, you become better on the other end of it because of it.

This group has done a good job of keeping things in perspective, understanding how they can utilize that experience. They have done that. They've put themselves in position to grow upon what they went through last year and learned, improve. We're looking forward to that.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time.

GREG GARD: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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