Ball and Wilson

The recent photo in the Wisconsin State Journal was almost haunting. As the caption notes: “Montee Ball celebrates his 15-yard TD run with Russell Wilson during UW’s 48-17 win over Nebraska on Oct. 1, 2011 at Camp Randall Stadium.” With the 2016 NFL Draft now completed, it brings back some bittersweet draft moments involving Ball and Wilson. Wilson, after a great 2011 season with the Badgers, was a third round draft pick of Seattle in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was only the 75th player taken – too short to play QB in the NFL some pundits said. Ball, a four-year player for the Badgers, was draft in the second round by Denver in the 2013 NFL Draft. He was the 58th player selected. Expectations were high for Ball, who rushed for 5.140 yards for Wisconsin and set an NCAA record with 83 career TDs. Turn the page to 2016 and the paths of Wilson and Ball have gone in completely opposite directions. Wilson, who seemed like he was preparing his entire life for his NFL moment, is now one of the league’s highest paid players – signing a four-year $87.6 million contract extension with the Seahawks. Ball is no longer in the NFL, having been waived by the Broncos in 2015 and the New England Patriots this past February. Since his return to Madison, he has been charged with felony assault and felony bail jumping. Ball’s fall from grace has been quick and disappointing. At age 25 his NFL career already seems to have ended and a word no athlete wants to hear is now attached to him:... read more

Nigel Hayes: Will he stay or will he go?

We will know the answer to that question by May 25 when Wisconsin’s junior forward has to make a final decision on his NBA draft status. During the next four weeks, Hayes, who has not signed with an agent, will be gathering information to help him decide if he will return to the Badgers for his senior season. Based on his performance in the recently completed 2015-16 season, Hayes should put aside his NBA thoughts and play for Wisconsin one more year. It would be a win-win for him and the Badgers. Wisconsin seems to have all the makings of a great team for 2016-17. If Hayes returns, all five starters and all four top reserves, will be back, which is unheard of in the college era of one and done. Wisconsin would be starting four seniors – Hayes, Vitto Brown, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter – and a red-shirt sophomore – Ethan Happ – next season. Its top four reserves – Jordan Hill, Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson and Alex Illikainen – from this season would also be back. And a bonus! Two talented freshmen who couldn’t play this season: hot shooting guard Brevin Pritzl (medical red-shirt) and 6-11 forward Andy Van Vliet (NCAA issues), are also expected to be in the rotation next season. That, with Hayes, is an 11-deep rotation. At the moment, the focus is on Hayes, who despite his First Team All-Big Ten selection, underachieved for much of the season. Compared to the previous season, his numbers just weren’t very good. His overall FG percentage was only 36.8 and from 3-point it was only 29.3... read more
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