“Slide Shell” has become common among campus vernacular at the University of Wisconsin, especially for those who share a love for the game of basketball.
The phrase refers to the students who frequently travel across campus to The Shell — one of UW’s recreation facilities — through the harsh Wisconsin winters equipped with only hoop dreams. The Shell, located on Monroe Street right outside of historic Camp Randall Stadium, is one of the most frequented spaces on campus.
Wisconsin has an emphatic hoop culture, especially in Madison and Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks currently boast the best record in the NBA — proud owners of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The team is also home to one of the most compelling players in the league and the frontrunner for MVP — Giannis Antetokounmpo, commonly known as the Greek Freak.
The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team has been dominant since the start of the 21st century, tallying three trips to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four, 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, four regular-season Big Ten titles and three Big Ten tournament championships within that timeframe.
The state has been blessed to see big-name players pass through — from Michael Finley, Alando Tucker and Jordan Taylor to Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Ethan Happ.
Madison is also the heart of Wisconsin high school hoops.
The Big Eight conference, which is part of the WIAA, is year in and year out the most rigorous conference across the state that sees sell-out crowds of 3,000 plus fans on a weekly basis.
“With four high schools in Madison, there was a rivalry game every night,” former East High student Caleb Smith said. “And with the State Championship in Madison, it shifts the focus of basketball from Milwaukee to the center point being in Madison.”
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The state of Wisconsin has produced some of college basketball’s top players in recent years — Keshawn Justice to Santa Clara, Kobe King to Wisconsin, Jordan Poole to Michigan, Tyrese Haliburton to Iowa State, Jordan McCabe to West Virginia, Joey and Sam Hauser to Marquette and Tyler Herro to Kentucky.
Jalen Johnson is currently the top player in the state at the high school level, terrorizing his competition in Wisconsin.
The five-star recruit plays for Nicolet, a Milwaukee-area school, and is still deciding on his commitment between Duke and Wisconsin. Johnson is the third-highest recruit in the nation for the class of 2020.
The long line of Wisconsin hoop culture does not end there, all one has to do is venture into The Shell and discover a whole new world of basketball.
“No matter how good you are you can always have fun with basketball here,” UW student Anthony West said.
The pick-up basketball that you find in Madison creates an intense and competitive culture, participants said.
“Half of the people who go to The Shell played a varsity sport every day in high school,” UW student Nick Johnston said.
A good portion of the basketball culture on campus draws from the pool of locals who once played high school basketball in Madison.
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“A lot of people who graduated from Madison high schools are still around, and they bring the same energy when they come to The Shell,” Johnston said. “It’s natural for humans to have that drive to compete. We come to The Shell to compete and get all that bound up energy out.”
The competitive nature represents the high level of talent in conjunction with the quality effort everyone puts into each game.
“If you are not a demon on the court, you do not survive, that is the hoop culture in Madison,” Johnston said.
With great competition comes great respect. That is all you see at The Shell.
“No matter who you play against or with, it is still a tight community,” Johnston said. “What is on the court is different from what is off the court.”
There’s a level of respect for every hooper who plays, but once you step on the hardwood, feelings are dropped, and all that remains is a desire to lead your team to victory.
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The Shell is an amazing place to release your mind from stress, get a great workout in and meet different people from all over the country that bring their own style of basketball to the table.
“The Shell is the place you go to find community and get busy,” Smith said.
If you ever find yourself at UW with the urge to get some buckets, always remember to “slide shell.”