It’s been five years since the Wisconsin Badgers had a pair of seniors starting at guard. This year, seniors Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon — both of who were starters last season — are ready to end that drought.
When asked about the duo starting together as seniors, head coach Bo Ryan recalled the last time he had a pair of senior guards as starters.
“You can never look in a crystal ball and say this is how a couple senior guards will play,” Ryan said. “(But), you know, I thought Sharif Chambliss and Clayton Hanson did a pretty good job together, with help obviously from the bench with [Kammron Taylor].”
Like Chambliss and Hanson, Hughes and Bohannon will get plenty of help from a deep Wisconsin bench. The Badgers have three guards — Tim Jarmusz, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson — that will see plenty of time this year.
The difference between the Chambliss-Hanson backcourt and that of Hughes and Bohannon is that the latter are the only seniors on the 2009-10 squad, while Chambliss and Hanson had a strong supporting cast of seniors, including forwards Zach Morley and Mike Wilkinson.
Hughes and Bohannon are the oldest players on a young Wisconsin team, and as such, they have embraced the leadership role that is expected of them.
“[We] have as much experience as anyone on the team right now, and we’ve kind of learned the ins and the outs through the years,” Bohannon said. “We’re trying to pass that along to the younger guys and get them ready for competition.”
As the only seniors for Wisconsin this season, Hughes and Bohannon have a large task ahead of them: leading a Badger team that has to find a way to replace forwards Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft, who constituted roughly 40 percent of the team’s scoring and rebounding last year.
Bohannon, though, is not particularly worried about the losses.
“We lost two important pieces last year with Joe and Marcus, but I feel like we’ve had guys that played in the big games,” Bohannon said. “They’ve all had the experience in those crucial moments through the year, (and) I think that’ll pay off for us.”
Certainly, Hughes and Bohannon will be expected to pick up some of the slack with the departure of Landry and Krabbenhoft but they were already the team’s second- and third-leading scorers, respectively, during the 2008-09 campaign.
The real key for the senior duo will be making up for the leadership lost without Landry and Krabbenhoft.
Being senior leaders presents an interesting challenge for both guards, who typically are not the most vocal players on the team. As the team’s only seniors, though, they know they must speak up more frequently this season with the younger players looking up to them.
“We haven’t spoken about it, but we realize that that’s our role, this year especially,” Hughes said.
Whether or not they become more vocal throughout the season, Hughes and Bohannon know they can lead by example. They each already have shown an ability to score, as well as play strong defense, though Hughes is better in the latter category.
Still, Hughes and Bohannon each said they have tried to become leaders that are more vocal when the time is right.
In particular, Hughes, a Queens, N.Y., native, has drawn on his experience at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy.
“I can (be vocal). I went to a military school and they teach you to be vocal. So, that helps out a little bit,” Hughes said. “If we could do it, I’d try to have them march. It builds character.”
But it is not as if Hughes has not already been in a leadership position with the Badgers.
“I’ve been trying to take that role since I was handed the keys to being the point guard of the team,” Hughes said. “That’s the kind of territory you get when you’re a point guard of a team.”
Hughes showed his ability to take over the game in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament against Florida State, winning the game with an acrobatic layup over the outstretched arms of several Seminoles with two seconds remaining in overtime.
And according to Ryan, the two have already made a difference with what they did working with their teammates, young and old alike.
“Their leadership has already shown in the conditioning,” he said.
For him, though, having the two seniors avoid injury throughout the 2009-10 season is just as important as their leadership. He cited the NCAA Tournament loss to Davidson in 2008 as an example, as the Badgers struggled in the second half with Hughes sidelined.
“I think they’re ready right now, but it’s a long season and you don’t know what can happen,” Ryan said. “It’s one of those things where if you have them and … if the two of them can stay healthy, having two seniors, that’s pretty good stuff.”
Beyond just stepping into a role that is expected of them, there exists some personal motivation for Hughes and Bohannon to do all they can as senior leaders at Wisconsin.
In particular, the two do not want to snap the Badgers’ streak of 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
“Everybody keeps saying it, but we don’t want to leave here as the team that dropped the ball, the two seniors that didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament,” Hughes said.
Bohannon has a more specific goal for his final season.
“We’ve got to make this the best last go-round we can,” Bohannon said. “There couldn’t be a better way to go out than winning a Big Ten Championship.”