The point guard position: arguably the most important position across the sporting-world. A point guard’s ability to head an intricate offense, facilitate teammates and remain level-headed throughout the game makes the position one of the hardest and complex positions to master in all of sports.
The Wisconsin women’s basketball team currently has two players who are trying to master the craft of being the signal caller for the Badgers (10-11 overall, 3-6 Big Ten).
Coming into the season, sophomore guard Dakota Whyte was all set to take over starting point guard duties for the Badgers upon the graduation of Tiera Stephen. After averaging 11 minutes a game her freshman year, largely due to injuries around her, this season Whyte was thrust into the starting lineup filled with upperclassmen Taylor Wurtz, Morgan Paige, Jacki Gulczynski and Michala Johnson.
However, things didn’t go as planned for Badger head coach Bobbie Kelsey who decided to hand over the reins of point guard to another sophomore, Nicole Bauman, who she felt had a little more experience. Bauman averaged 26.7 minutes per game as a freshman last season, more than double that of Whyte, and was put into the starting lineup for the first time this season for their game against Iowa on Jan. 12. Since the switch, Bauman has had three games scoring in double-figures including a very healthy 8-for-19 (42 percent) mark from beyond the arc.
“We had been struggling in the starting point guard position,” Bauman said. “It’s just something that me and Dakota have both taken over and that we’re both contributing to.”
With Bauman being sick the past two games, Whyte has been the starting point guard for UW, but that job will likely go back to Bauman Wednesday when the Badgers play host to No. 18 Nebraska.
Regardless, Whyte remains upbeat about her role on the team and sees coming off the bench as a learning opportunity.
“My role is obviously to be the point guard, but also to share that role with Nicole Bauman,” Whyte said. “I think that whether you’re coming off of the bench or starting, the role is still the same for me; being the point guard leading the team.”
“Coming off the bench was almost a blessing for me,” Whyte added. “It made me realize how much basketball means to me and to not ever take it for granted. So coming off the bench just makes me want to come in the game and affect it as much as I can.”
As both players compete for that starting role, Kelsey recognizes that Whyte and Bauman can be used effectively in different scenarios. With Bauman’s ability to shoot the basketball and see the floor and Whyte’s talents of driving the lane and passing, it’s a combination that could really benefit the Badgers down the road.
Together they work to bolster a starting lineup that already has three players averaging double-figures.
“They each bring a different element,” Kelsey said. “Nicole’s a little more steady; that’s just her personality. It’s not that Dakota’s not, it’s just that in certain situations we know what Nicole’s going to do. In certain situations we know what Dakota’s going to do. It depends on whoever is playing well and hopefully both of them are playing well at the time.”
But what might be the most important benefit to having two able starting point guards is the competition in practice between the players and the opportunity they have to learn from one another.
They both view this opportunity as a chance to get better.
“Oh yeah definitely,” Bauman said about herself and Whyte learning from each other. “We always talk about different plays that we’re running. If I don’t know one, she’ll help me out, if she doesn’t know one I’ll help her out.”
“Nicole is more of a [shooting guard] which she played last year,” Whyte said. “I really love her shooting ability and that’s one thing that I need to get into my game. Whether it’s just knocking down an open shot, or with someone on you, she just has a really nice shot and I love that about her game.”
Regardless of their abilities, Kelsey is simply looking for someone to run the offense. With both players being in just their second season, she wants the two guards to play within themselves and to not do anything too crazy.
“Just don’t turn it over and make the easy pass,” Kelsey said. “Don’t try to make the home run play and that’s for any of your point guards or players. You try to just give them the opportunity to be creative but not crazy. You can’t go out there and throw it up hoping somebody will catch it. You have to be able to communicate. That gives us the best chance to win.”