Despite a mediocre 2-3 record to start the Big Ten slate, the Badger men's basketball team is still an impressive 11-4 entering tonight's game with Ohio State. Much of the team's success has been attributed to the tough group of seniors who have not skipped a beat following an early-season coaching change.
Having grown up in Madison, I pledge special allegiance to one particular senior, Roy Boone. His name has popped up in the sports section a lot lately, so I decided to continue the trend this week.
For those who do not know, Boone played high school ball at Madison East, after moving to Wisconsin from Detroit. In two years at East, Boone twice garnered area Player of the Year honors and earned all-state distinction his senior year after averaging more than 28 points and seven rebounds per game.
Boone caught the eye of local hoops fans immediately. Even though I did not attend East, going to see Boone play was always a viable entertainment option. After all, what was better on a Tuesday night--doing homework or watching Roy Boone get silly on five guys from Sun Prairie? The choice was simple.
Still, I did not hear of scholarship offers pouring in for Boone. Dane County is not exactly breeding grounds for young Division I basketball talent. So it seems Boone made the right choice when he went off to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College for seasoning.
As a freshman at Coffeyville, Boone averaged 13.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. His improvement showed his sophomore year as he earned all-conference and all-region honors while averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Boone returned to Wisconsin for the 1999-2000 season to play for the Badgers, just as he had promised before heading off to Coffeyville.
Last season brought both ups and downs for Boone. However, Badger fans got a glimpse of the future when Boone led UW with 18 points in last year's Final Four loss to Michigan State.
This year, Boone has turned it up in the regular season, leading UW with 14.7 points per game. He currently ranks second on the team in steals, third in rebounds and fourth in assists.
Some of Boone's success comes from his improved conditioning, something that he worked hard to improve over the off-season. It has allowed Boone to start every game for UW, logging twice as many minutes per game as last season.
It appears that the real Roy Boone has finally returned to Wisconsin, leading UW in the hunt for a Big Ten title.
Yet one aspect of Boone's game that still haunts him is turnovers.
Boone's struggles in this area have been well documented. He has committed 40 turnovers in UW's first 15 games this season, according to the kindest figures available. A little number crunching reveals his \turnover-to-minutes played"" ratio remains virtually the same as last season.
Solving the control problem in tense situations is the last piece of the puzzle for Boone. If Boone can become a truly complete player, the sky is the limit for the Badgers the rest of the season.
The sky could be the limit for Boone personally as well, with professional basketball possibly in his future.
""I let my friends do all the talking about that stuff,"" Boone said in a recent interview. ""I know if we do well, I'll have a chance.""
I know I'll be watching. I have been all along.