has developed into
Michael Rand, Star Tribune
Three seasons ago, a coach watched film of
"We had certain rules for the guys guarding him," the coach said. "He was pretty much one-dimensional."
The coach, Bo Ryan, was in his first season at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Penney was a defense-stretching shooter -- and little more -- for a Badgers squad that made a surprising run to the Final Four.
Little did either know that two years later they would be paired together in
To appreciate the transformation of Penney's game, one needs only to listen to a fresh scouting report offered by a different coach.
"He's a very poised and seasoned player,"
The transformation is a testament to both coach and player. Ryan's system requires versatile players. Post players need to pop out and knock down jumpers, while guards need to be able to post up. Everybody on the court must play good team defense.
"The system offers the opportunity to go inside and outside," Penney said. "It poses different looks to defenses. It's given me the opportunity to become a more complete player."
A look at Penney's numbers show how the 6-5 guard's game has changed. While his three-point shooting percentage has dipped slightly (from 43.2 as a sophomore to 37.0 this season), his rebounding, assist and steal totals have gone up in the same span. Ryan gives the credit to Penney.
"He did it. We showed him some things and showed him our offense. He figured out how to fit in," Ryan said. "He is as good as anyone I've ever coached at adapting to a system and improving as a player."
Penney, a native of
He is still revered in
Not too shabby for a guy whose mates all played rugby or soccer growing up.
"He's a great leader by example, and he always has been," Ryan said. "He'll be one of those guys in the community, when people need something done they'll find Kirk Penney."
Or as Tab Baldwin, Penney's summer coach last season in
For now, though, Penney's on-court contributions are of the most importance.
After lighting up
"He went 2-for-12, that's a stat," Ryan said. "Still, he drew a lot of attention. We had some other guys open for some shots because of it."
Said Penney, "At first we struggled with the offense, but we've come a long way."
Halfway around the world, and still going.
Michael Rand is at firstname.lastname@example.org.