October 23, 2009

Hughes sees team benefit during off-season

MADISON - Trevon Hughes has proven he can be a valuable asset to the Wisconsin men's basketball team over his tenure in the program. He has shown he can hit big shots, play stellar defense and be a leader the team can rely on.

This season, along with fellow senior Jason Bohannon, he will have one more chance to lead the Badgers on a journey through Big Ten and postseason play.

At UW's annual media day, BadgerBlitz.com had a chance to catch up with the fourth-year point guard. The following is a question and answer with Hughes.

Now that the off-season is over with, it must be nice to be back in practice. It must be a good feeling.

Hughes: It's definitely a good feeling to actually compete, but we've been actually having pick-up games against each other. So we're already tired of playing against each other. We need some new faces, some competition in other jerseys.

But, these guys that we've got in the locker room this year, I think that we've got more of a team bond than we did last year early on. I think this is a group that we can make a good run and show people that they're wrong.

How much can team chemistry really help things? You say it's already a good bond as compared to this time last year. What can that do for a team?

Hughes: I mean, it does wonders. It helps a lot. We go out there and we play and we're competing. Jordan Taylor is giving me his best. I'm giving him my best and that's the way you make teammates better. If you take plays off, that's just a sign of disrespect like you don't even care about anybody. But there is nobody on this team that does that.

Everybody is going out there and giving it they're all. Everybody is a little bit bruised and banged up already. That's a good sign. Coaches should be happy about that, but we've still got to get better.

As far as you personally through the off-season, did you add any bulk or anything through the weight room?

Hughes: I added a little bulk. That was the main point of this off-season in the weight room. We all have to get a little bulky and get more in shape so we can outlast teams. I would say to sum up our season last year, the last eight minutes was our downfall.

We just gave up then like we weren't conditioned enough. That's never the case. We are always conditioned. We just couldn't finish those games.

At what point does that become mental and how do you go about increasing the strength in your mind?

Hughes: I won't say mental. I'll say we have experience. Last year we had a lot of freshman and sophomores and we're more experienced this year. It does wear on you, especially losing six in a row. You start thinking about it. But you can't really hang your hat on that.

You have to go out there and give it your all in practice because you can't just wait for game day because you're not going to be able to guard then. We're just competing in practice and coach is trying to keep us going in practice….

When you look across the landscape of the Big Ten you've got Michigan State coming back with a lot of the same guys that made it to the national title game. You've got Purdue as what they are, Minnesota and Michigan. It's going to be a tough league. Where do you see you guys finishing?

Hughes: I think we're going to be up there competing. We've competed with them the last two or three years, the last four years that I've been here. We're contenders I think. We really don't lose anybody and we have a lot of people back with experience. We lost two starters who played a lot of minutes and the people that were scoring at the end of the year for us are actually coming back.

So even though we're predicted low, that's something for motivation and bulletin board material. We hang that on the wall and look at that everyday as a motivator.

You talked about Joe and Marcus a little bit there, but talk about the rest of the frontcourt now that those guys are gone. How did you like the way that Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer and even Tim Jarmusz or Jared Berggren have approached the off-season into the early schedule of practice so far?

Hughes: Well Jon, he's more of a scorer this year in the post. Every time he gets it, he finishes well around the basket. Sometimes the shots he takes aren't even lay-ups. He's got a nice little mid-range when he gets in the post. He faces up and sometimes goes off the glass and most times hits that shot.

With Jared, he's the redshirt freshman that will be a good contributor this year. He's got a nice soft touch. Everything that that kisses, it drops through the rim. He played his heart out and showed people that he's athletic and skilled enough to hang with us. We always knew that and we believed it, but he never showed it.

Last night he showed it and he got a taste of that. We want more of that. I believe that he can do that this year because this off-season, that was his breakthrough.

Was there one player out of anybody else that stood out more during the off-season?

Hughes: I mean there's a bunch of them. I could go right down the line, everybody stood out, everybody improved and made strides at getting better. I could go down the line, but I don't want to bore you with that. The whole team, right now, has been making progress and that's what you're supposed to do.

Go back to the end of last year. You make the winning shot against Florida State to move to the second round. Then you had a pretty strong first half against Xavier then you guys kind of fell apart a little bit in the second half. Do you feel like you still have momentum coming into this season based off your tournament performance?

Hughes: I don't think of momentum from last season. It's a new year and we got new guys. We got new lineups….I won't say it's momentum from last year, but we feel like we've got a good squad this year and we should be better than last year. We've got the talent. We've got the guys, we've got the strength, coaching and all the things to hang with the elite teams.

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