From the start, Taylor Wurtz was bound for success on the basketball court.
The daughter of a former hoops standout at Ripon College and herself a basketball standout at Ripon High School, athletic success at the collegiate level looked to be in the cards for Wurtz. In her junior year at Wisconsin, it looks like her card has finally been drawn.
After averaging just eight points a game as a sophomore, Wurtz has flourished in her first year under Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey. The junior currently averages 15.6 points per game, good for the seventh-highest total in the Big Ten. Complementing Wurtz’s offensive game has been her presence on the boards for the Badgers, as the guard averages 7.6 a contest, good for fifth best in the conference.
Posting career highs in just about every statistic, Wurtz is definitely in line for all-Big Ten recognition as the season comes to a close – although personal recognition could not be further from her mind.
“Nothing really matters unless you get the ‘W’ at the end of the night,” Wurtz said. “I realize that a lot of my success is because of my teammates and coaches. It’s because of them that I am able to get open shots, create and be a huge presence down low.”
In addition to her teammates, Wurtz’s faith has helped aid her in the push to become the best player possible.
“A lot of my motivation comes from my faith in God,” Wurtz said. “He has given me the challenge to play this game, and I just want to make the most of the gift he has given me.”
Likewise, she specifically values the relationship she shares with her father through the game of basketball.
“I credit my dad for basically all my skills in basketball,” Wurtz said. “He was always shooting with me, always putting in the extra work. He’s the reason I’m at the University of Wisconsin.”
Head coach Bobbie Kelsey can appreciate that fact. In just her first year managing the sidelines, she has certainly noticed the unique skill set Wurtz brings to the floor for the Badgers, labeling Wurtz’s offensive creation as her biggest asset.
“She has a scorer’s mentality that sometimes she may try to do too much, but she learns from it,” Kelsey said. “She has a nice step-back that is really hard to stop, almost impossible when she is hitting it.”
Wurtz has also been a model of offensive consistency for a Wisconsin team ranked 11th in the Big Ten in offensive points per game. Beside leading the team in scoring and rebounding, Wurtz gives the Badgers the fourth best three point threat in the conference, shooting on average close to 40 percent.
For Wurtz, elevating her game before this season came from the extra work she put in and the hours spent practicing.
“I definitely have to give credit to the offseason,” Wurtz said. “You have to get in and get up shots and really work on your game because during the season, it gets hard.”
Amid the glaring statistics, it may be difficult to notice that Wurtz can do more than just excel on the hardwood, but her demeanor reflects upon her teammates. Forward Anya Covington shares the floor with Wurtz more than any other Badger and has a good idea of what Wurtz represents for the Badgers.
“That’s my girl,” Covington said. “She’s an awesome player, but she’s an awesome person too. She’s hilarious; she’s such a goofy person. She’ll make anyone laugh, but she also has such a caring heart.”
Being labeled as a “goofy person” while leading the team offensively perhaps leads to the expectation that Wurtz is outspoken and forthright like many of the dynamic offensive players we see today in sports. Even though she was additionally voted as a tri-captain to begin the season, the junior decides to let her body of work on the floor speak for itself.
“She’s not very vocal; she’s not going to say a lot,” Kelsey said. “Taylor leads by example.”
Covington agreed with the “leader by example” adage and, as a senior, has been able to witness Wurtz’s progression from year to year.
“She was no longer just bringing herself to the gym, but she was inviting others and showing others how they can improve their game, and that’s key,” Covington said. “She’s not your typical floor manager, but she’s going to show you how to get it done.”
“When she beasts a rebound down, I just get excited. When she hits a timely three, I just get excited and the whole team gets excited. [She’s] what a team needs: someone that’s aggressive, that is willing to take that shot and that is willing to put themselves on the line for the team. Taylor does it all.”