As the 2018-19 University of Wisconsin Men’s basketball season has gotten off to an excellent start, the return of redshirt sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice has been a major boon.
After missing the final 23 games of the season last year due to an injured right foot that required surgery, Trice looks ready to lead the Badgers back to the NCAA tournament after missing the big dance for the first time since 1998.
“The mentality I have coming into this year is much different than I have had in previous years,” Trice said after being named a captain on this year’s team.
Trice was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA for last season after competing in only 10 games before injury. Questions about Trice’s future production loomed heading into the season but were quickly dismissed after the first game when he sunk five three-pointers, tallying 21 total points.
Part of Trice’s success has been due to his determination to stay healthy.
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“I still do rehab every day, and I still see [Athletic Trainer Enrique “Henry” Perez-Guerra] every day,” Trice said.
But the biggest factor contributing to his success was visiting family and getting back to the basics.
“My confidence is at an all-time high, that has a lot to do with going back home this summer and working on my craft,” Trice said. The sophomore guard is averaging 16.8 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 2.3 assists per game through the first six games of the season.
The place that Trice is really leaving his mark is from beyond the arc where his three-point shooting has been silky smooth.
“I have been working with trainers, my dad and my brother. With them constantly staying in my ear, my confidence is at an all-time high,” the sophomore captain said.
Through the first three games, Trice was shooting 65 percent (13-20 on three-point FGs), including a perfect performance where he made all five of the three-pointers he attempted on the road against Xavier. Now after six games, Trice is still shooting an excellent 57.1 percent, and has connected on 20 of his 35 three-point attempts.
Trice set his career-high this season against the Oklahoma Sooners when he knocked down seven consecutive three-point shots to propel the Badgers to a victory over the Sooners. He only missed on his eighth attempt of the game which would have tied the school record for three-pointers in a game previously set by Bronson Koenig, who made eight in 2017 against Virginia Tech. Trice finished the game with 25 points while shooting 61.5 percent (8-11 FGs), that was already Trice’s third 20-point game of the season.
As long as Trice is shooting the ball, good things have been happening for the Badgers. The Badgers are 4-0 when Trice makes a three, and they are 1-1 when Trice does not. In the loss against Virginia, Trice only had two shots from beyond the arc, he missed both and finished with five points in the loss. Every other game this season Trice has shot at least five three-pointers and in those games he is averaging 19.2 points per game and the Badgers are 5-0.
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“It is a long season, there [are] going to be some ups and downs but if we stay on this continued path then we can be a really great team and shock the world,” Trice said.
All of the production that Trice is bringing to the table is allowing the Badgers to elevate their all-around game as a team. For starters, the Badgers now have an experienced point guard who knows how to control the tempo of the game and can run the Wisconsin offense well.
“I need to do what good point guards need to do, and that is making everyone around me better, whether that is me knocking down shots, finding an open guy or staying in people’s ears,” Trice said.
More importantly, Wisconsin now has a major weapon to help free up forward Ethan Happ in the post.
“He can make plays with the ball, it kind of takes pressure off of my shoulders where I can get a couple easy looks at the rim,” Happ said of his teammate Trice.
Last season without Trice on the floor, opposing teams would double-team Happ on the majority of Wisconsin’s possessions which caused major offensive struggles for the Badgers.
Without the help of Trice, the Badgers finished 15-18 and missed the tournament for the first time in 19 years. The Badgers finished the year with 353 turnovers and 543 fouls while shooting only 33.5 percent from the three-point line. Trice’s injury, however, might have been a blessing in disguise for the young Badgers as it forced a lot of young guys such as Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers to grow up quickly.
“The biggest thing is experience, experience goes a long way for younger guys. We still have a young team, but they were put in the fire last year, so that helps a lot,” Happ said.
It might have been ugly last season, but it was all part of the process which is now paying off. The Badgers are off to a 5-1 start and currently ranked No. 22 in the country.
With Trice and Happ leading the charge for Wisconsin, the team’s chemistry and production are back to where they should be.
“We want to be back at the top of the Big Ten,” Happ added, and that goal is well in reach with Trice back running the point.