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March 3, 2012

Wilson has matured over 4 years

MADISON -- Over his four-year career, Rob Wilson has played in 55 home games. But the 56th, and last, game will likely be the most special.

After all, it will be the first time his mother, Deborah, will be in attendance at the Kohl Center.

"It's pretty exciting," Wilson said. "I hope she don't cry. It'll be great to see her here."

Wilson has had an up-and-down career, with the last few weeks being on the upswing. For much of this season, even as a senior, Wilson had not exactly played a major role for the Badgers. But as his time in cardinal and red winds closer to an end, the senior from Cleveland is stepping up.

Beginning with a bit of a breakout performance -- if you can call it that so late in a career -- at Iowa, Wilson has scored 24 points in Wisconsin's last three games, after having scored just 63 over the first 27 games of the season. Wilson's 11-point effort off the bench at Carver-Hawkeye Arena sparked the Badgers, and nearly put them over the top for the comeback victory.

After averaging just 2.33 points per game up to that point, Wilson has put up an 8-point scoring average over his last three contests. While this game will be his last at home in a Wisconsin uniform, Wilson hopes his career is far from over.

"There's just a sense of urgency," Wilson said. "It's my last go-round. I want to go deep in the tournament this year. I want to bring what I can to help my team go far."

Throughout his career, Wilson has always been an excellent shooter and one of the Badgers' better ball handlers. Unfortunately both for him and UW, some inconsistencies in his ability to take care of the ball and his defensive play have resulted in a lack of playing time.

When he hit his lowest point and was rarely seeing the floor, however, Wilson always remained positive. A lesser player may have considered leaving the program to play elsewhere, or to simply focus on something other than basketball.

"Never crossed my mind," Wilson said. "My mom always taught me to fight through and stay committed. Sooner or later when you're doing the right thing it will pay off."

It is paying off right now for Wilson. If he can maintain his recent level of play through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, Wilson's lasting image in the mind of Wisconsin fans could be of a postseason hero, rather than a role player who never averaged more than 3.1 points per game over a single season.

Associate head coach Greg Gard was not surprised by things being difficult for Wilson as a part of Bo Ryan's Wisconsin program. But Gard certainly has been impressed with the way Wilson has handled it.

"I knew from Day 1, that playing for Coach Ryan wasn't going to be easy, but it was going to be great for Rob," Gard said. "I think that's what helped him mature as he's gone through. Academically, he didn't waver from his goals. He wanted to graduate in four years and he will. Deep down that's why you do what you do from a coaching standpoint, you want to be in a position that people are better from the time they walk in here to the time they leave."

In his free time, Wilson has also been an active member with the Boys and Girls Club in the Madison area, mentoring the kids there.

While he would like to further pursue a career in basketball after graduating this spring -- which would likely mean travelling overseas like many other former Badgers -- Wilson certainly would be open to continuing his involvement with the children at the Boys and Girls Club if he finds the right opportunity to do so.

As he plays his final collegiate home game, Wilson will be joined in the senior day festivities by Jordan Taylor. The two have grown to be close friends over the years, and each has learned a lot from the other.

Taylor recalled their first meeting at a LeBron James basketball camp in Ohio, when Wilson looked at him "like I was a foreign person." Over the last four years, the two have grown to be like brothers.

Wilson has played 1,009 minutes over 111 games in his career. He's scored 259 points, dished out 41 assists and grabbed 128 rebounds.

So what is the biggest thing Wilson will take away from his four-year career at Wisconsin?

"My maturity," he said. "Over the years I've grown so much and I've learned so much from being here on campus, being around a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. I grew thinking-wise. I learned how to take things in perspective and I learned how to not get down on something."


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