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Friday, January 21, 2022
As a sophomore, Showalter helped UW to a national title game. As a senior, he hopes to do so one more time.

As a sophomore, Showalter helped UW to a national title game. As a senior, he hopes to do so one more time.

Showtime: Showalter’s tireless motor takes center stage for UW

In five years in Madison, the relentless guard has established a timeless legacy

For years, in the driveway outside of Zak Showalter’s house in Germantown, Wis., the Badger guard played basketball with a clear disadvantage. When the family game of pickup broke out, it was always 2-on-1. Zak played alone while his younger brother, Jake, played alongside their dad, Steve.

Zak never complained. “You just gotta find different ways to get around two guys,” he said.

Nearly a decade later, the redshirt senior has continued to find success on the basketball court. Showalter is by no means the biggest Badger—he is generously listed at 6-foot-2—nor is he the best shooter or best playmaker. Showalter, one of the team’s two captains, has never been the loudest talker either, but he’s never let any of that stop him from contributing. Once known to just be a defensive stopper, Showalter’s improved offensive game has made him one of Wisconsin’s core pieces. After five years at UW, Showalter’s relentless motor and non-stop effort speak for themselves.

Associate head coach Lamont Paris has recruited hundreds of players throughout his time at UW. He’s seen plenty of phenomenal shooters and superstar athletes. But as a prospective recruit, something else about Showalter stuck out to Paris; his strength was his work ethic.

“It’s a trait that not every kid has in 2017,” Paris said. “The ability to compete. That’s where he’s shined over other guys.”

Nothing was guaranteed to Showalter when he arrived in Madison in the fall of 2012. He was a freshman walk-on playing on an experienced UW team.

Still, though, he appeared in 22 games as a true freshman, impressing his teammates with his tenacious defense and non-stop motor.

“When Showy came in, he made an impact and competed,” Ben Brust, Showalter’s former teammate said. “He played as a freshman walk-on, so guys like that are always hungry.”

Showalter redshirted the 2013-’14 season, yet came back the next year as a key reserve on a 36-win team. His 2.1 points per game and 53 field goal attempts were seldom the reasons why former head coach Bo Ryan inserted him into games. Instead, he emerged as one of UW’s top defenders.

“At the end of the day, I couldn’t give a shit about my stats,” Showalter said. “Fans are happy if your team’s winning, and that’s all I’m trying to do, just keep getting this team wins.”

Showalter’s attitude has started to rub off on many of UW’s young guards. Both freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice and redshirt freshman guard Brevin Pritzl hope to one day rival Showalter’s toughness.

Pritzl said that, over the course of his first two years in Madison, he’s formed a newfound appreciation for just how important hustle plays are in the grand scheme of a game. Once known as just a 3-point specialist, Pritzl has seen more minutes as of late because of plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

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Yet Trice admits that it’s difficult to fully mirror Showalter’s game, as his toughness and work ethic is innate.

“Either you have it or you don’t,” Trice said. “And Showy definitely has it.”

Showalter has always had that non-stop motor. It started in elementary school, when he would take jump shots after his dad finished coaching their local high school team’s practice.

In high school, his brother Jake remembers Zak outworking some of the highest-rated recruits in the state.

“We would always play J.P. Tokoto,” Jake said. “And I just think every time we played him, Zak would just out work him, even though J.P. was more of the star.”

Showalter has never been afraid to guard the opposing team’s star. For five years at Wisconsin, he’s matched up against some of the best players in the country.

No matter whom he’s guarding though, Showalter’s approach has remained the same.

“Just play hard and do things that are gonna win games,” he said.

Some nights that means being a pest in the passing lanes. Other nights it means taking charges or crashing the glass to try and snag contested rebounds. Paris has never questioned Showalter’s effort, but instead become used to his style of play.

“He’s not a real big vocal guy,” Paris said. “But more than anything, when you watch him, you have to say, ‘How can I not go out there and try to do that?’”

Just like when he was playing in the driveway against his dad and brother, he’s never complained. Showalter’s motor just speaks for itself.

“He’s that one guy you look to when you need that hustle play, that blue-collar, tough moment,” Brust said. “Showy’s your guy for that.”

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