Sports

Next gen: Young Wisconsin athletes hope to fill vacancy left by departing senior class

D'Mitrik Trice and the Badgers have gotten off to a slow start this season.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Midway through the first half of the Badgers’ November matchup with Chicago State, D’Mitrik Trice buried a three and pounded his chest in celebration. The shot came in the midst of a 19-0 run that helped UW overcome a slow start in which Trice scored or assisted on 11 of those 19 points.

It was an uncharacteristic show of emotion from the normally reserved freshman guard, who sometimes looks robotic on the court. He goes about his business, makes the right pass, takes a few shots per game and doesn’t try to play outside of himself.

But with the winningest senior class in school history now gone—along with 62.7 percent of the team’s shot attempts—Trice will have to take on a significantly bigger role in a rotation chock full of fresh faces. He’ll be thrust into a leadership role long occupied by upperclassmen like Nigel Hayes, Frank Kaminsky and Jordan Taylor.

The young IMG Academy product wasn’t expected to play much in his debut season, but he impressed the Badger coaching staff in the fall and carved out a nice sixth-man role for himself. Next year, he’ll be called on to carry the team alongside Ethan Happ.

In his one season in Madison, Trice says he learned a lot about being a role model from the departing seniors.

“I’m just learning the leadership qualities, how to talk to certain guys,” he said. “I’m especially learning a lot from Bronson [Koenig] and Nigel specifically. On and off the court, they’ve always been there mentoring me in every way possible.”

Trice’s transformation into a leader hasn’t come exclusively by way of his teammates, either. He’s constantly on the phone with his brother, Travis, a former Michigan State standout who led the Spartans to the Final Four as a senior.

“I really can’t explain how much I’ve learned from him and how much I can take away from him,” Trice said. “He’s always had my back.”

Now he’ll have to bring what he’s learned to the court to take the reins from an unparalleled senior class. And while he’s never had higher expectations, he’s never been more ready.

Ready to Roque and Roll

Just next door to the Kohl Center, where Trice will be developing into a figurehead on a national powerhouse, there will be a gaping hole in LaBahn Arena and the roster of the women’s hockey team.

Cameron Lane-Flehinger | The Daily Cardinal

Ann-Renée Desbiens has minded the net for the Badgers since 2013 and just closed out perhaps the greatest career in collegiate hockey history. Desbiens, a two-time First-Team All-American who set numerous NCAA records in her time at UW, will graduate along with Sarah Nurse, another All-American.

Stepping in to fill those skates is Abby Roque, the WCHA Rookie of the Year. She spent her freshman year under the guiding gaze of Nurse and says she still has a lot of work to do to be prepared to jump into the leadership role left behind by Nurse’s departure.“I need to do a lot to continue to improve,” Roque said. “Make sure you’re always improving, because if you’re not improving you might be getting worse.”

That modesty is par for the course for the young forward. Roque tallied 28 points for the Badgers and was a driving force behind their run to the National Championship Game this year, though she’d never let on how important she is to the program.

Roque is too focused on contributing to the team’s long tradition of success to worry about individual accolades. And above all, she wants to be remembered by the Badger Faithful the same way her mentors will be.

“I want my legacy to be that I came in and I did everything I could do for the team. Hopefully I have a lot of little fans who cheer me on,” Roque said. “They all love Ann, they all love Sarah because they see how great they are on the ice and they see how great the are to the fans … That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave is for the fans to miss me when I leave.”

Finding Redemption

All the way across campus sits the UW Field House, where Lauren Carlini set countless records for the volleyball team and will leave behind a storied career as a bona fide superstar.

Brandon Moe | The Daily Cardinal

Carlini was named to the All-Big Ten team in each of her four seasons, the only Badger to ever accomplish that feat. Without her presence, UW will turn to its crop of young players, led by freshman phenom Molly Haggerty, for leadership.

Haggerty burst onto the scene early in the season when she smashed the school record with an astonishing 27 kills in a dominating sweep of then-No. 16 Texas A&M. It was that performance that gave her the confidence to feel comfortable on the court, both as a player and as a leader.

“It was just cool to see that, even though I'm a freshman, I can still impact the game,” Haggerty said. “People kind of underestimate or don’t really respect freshmen as much. Not everyone, but some, and it meant a lot to me that people started respecting me.”

With that newfound confidence, Haggerty is ready to lead the Badgers to a Final Four or even a National Championship. The team’s collapse in the Elite Eight last season has only added fuel to her fire and pushed her to fine tune her already nearly-perfect game.

“I don’t know how many times I've watched our Stanford match and seeing how close we were,” Haggerty said. “We definitely have a lot of hunger for this upcoming season, and I know that the incoming freshmen also do.”

Chasing Legends

The biggest burden of all, though, lies squarely on the broad shoulders of Bradrick Shaw. He’ll take the field at Camp Randall in the fall shadowed by the ghosts of renowned Wisconsin running backs.

Bobby Burmeister | The Daily Cardinal

There is a long tradition of running back success in Madison, one that Shaw is well aware of. He is spurred on by the gaze of a fanbase that has borne witness to two Heisman-winning rushers and two more finalists. There was a time not long ago that Badger backs held NCAA records for yards in a game, yards in a career and career touchdowns.

But despite that intimidating expectation, Shaw won’t back down from the spotlight. He sees this as his opportunity to join the list.

“I definitely use it as an inspiration, knowing that those guys came through this program and were successful at running back,” he said. “I have a chance this year to really try to make a name for myself like they did.”

In his first year on the field, Shaw showed glimpses of what’s to come. He rushed for 457 yards on 5.2 yards per carry and five touchdowns. His most notable moment came in the first quarter of Wisconsin’s marquee matchup with No. 7 Nebraska.

Shaw burst through the line of scrimmage and raced past everyone en route to a 21-yard touchdown. In just a few short strides he had hit top speed. You could see the power in his legs—the power every memorable Badger rusher has had. For a split second, the image of Shaw sprinting to the end zone merged with the image of Melvin Gordon’s unforgettable record-breaking touchdown two years prior.

But that isn’t necessarily something Shaw wants. He feeds off the legacy of those that came before him, but he won’t try to emulate them. It’s his own name he wants etched into the facade of Camp Randall, not his predecessors’.

“Those guys are all known for something,” he said. “I just want to be different.”

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