Sophomore guard Taylor Wurtz had a big freshman season and is continuing to produce for the women’s basketball team this season, playing both guard spots and providing bigtime leadership.[/media-credit]

Hard work often comes up as an issue with today’s overpaid and self-concerned athletes.

For Wisconsin women’s basketball forward Taylor Wurtz, though, hard work is something that teammates and coaches collectively agree defines her as a player. A sophomore guard out of Brandon, Wis., Wurtz can often be found in the Kohl Center doing anything she can to improve her game. Coaches are quick to point out Wurtz’s relentless work ethic as something that allowed her to be successful early in her career.

“She’s got a tremendous work ethic, and I think because of that she’s able to take on a bit of responsibility for the team,” Wisconsin assistant coach Oties Epps said. “She’s in the gym every day working on her skills, her ball handling, watching film, her decision making. And she wants to do it, that’s the biggest thing.”

Teammates have also noticed the sophomore’s incredible work ethic, as she has built a reputation as being one of the hardest workers on the team.

“She spends all her free time here, I mean she would live here if she had the opportunity to,” junior guard Jade Davis joked. “[Her work ethic] makes us want to be better as well, makes us want to get in here and work on our game.”

With the Badgers battling some early injuries this year, Wurtz has been called upon to step in for missing players. A player who has taken the court as both a point guard and a shooting guard, Wurtz’s versatility has been very useful this season.

With star senior point guard Alyssa Karel out with an injury, Wurtz has found herself taking Karel’s usual spot.

“The point guard or the shooting guard, I feel comfortable with both of them, and I’m willing to step up and be put in a position wherever the team needs me most,” Wurtz said. “I think it’s made me more versatile…the more positions you know, the more familiar you are with the offense.”

Wurtz’s dedication to becoming a better basketball player has certainly paid dividends, as the guard was able to make an immediate impact as a freshman. Wurtz averaged over six points and three rebounds per game last year, playing in every one of the Badgers’ games.

Known mostly for being an accurate shooter behind the arc, Wurtz showed she was much more than a three-point shooter when she exploded for 27 points and nine rebounds against Big Ten rival Michigan last year.

Despite her great natural ability and skill, Wurtz remains very humble and is quick to point out aspects of her game she hopes to show improvement in this season.

“I needed to make an improvement on defense and I worked really hard in preseason and stuff on making that emphasis,” Wurtz said. “Not just being a three-point threat but also being able to take it to the basket and stuff is something that I worked on.”

In what could be her breakout year, Wurtz has already looked like a more complete player in Wisconsin’s first non-conference games, racking up eight points and eight rebounds against St. Louis and 14 points against William & Mary.

Part of this development involves taking more of a leadership role for the Badgers, and her teammates have recognized her effort to step into that role this year.

“She’s definitely more vocal, she’s really coming around as a leader…especially with injuries and things like that,” Davis said. “But I mean overall I think she’s just really coming into her game and really ready to play this year.”

Coaches have also noticed significant improvements in Wurtz’s play, whether during practice or in games. The multi-dimensional guard continues to impress them not just with her work ethic, but also with her endless potential.

In the freshman to sophomore jump that is often viewed as a telling sign of how well a player is developing, Wurtz seems to be right on track.

“I think she’s a lot more poised, where as a freshman she was a little sporadic, but I think the game was really fast for her as a freshman,” Epps said. “Now I think things are starting to slow down. She’s starting to understand where she can get shots, how she can set up her teammates to be successful, those kinds of things.”

Above all, Wurtz is a team player, one who truly believes that the good of the team supersedes any personal statistics or career-high performances if the team doesn’t come away with a win.

“I don’t have any milestones…personally I just want to help my team get better,” Wurtz said. “I see our team making the NCAA Tournament and winning a Big Ten Championship.”