Badgers fans' favorite New Zealander is the only senior on
However, expectations are higher. Whereas the 2001-'02 team was expected to struggle, the 2002-'03 version has been ranked among the top 25 nationally in various pre-season publications and has five of its top seven players returning.
Penney, fresh off a trip to the World Championship last month and a visit home because of a death in the family, is ready to take on the challenges of the new season.
Practice begins Oct. 12. The first game is Nov. 15 against
"There is a lot of potential with this team," he said Wednesday. "We're just looking forward to going out there in our first exhibition game and seeing what we can do."
That potential begins with Penney, an all-Big Ten choice last season and the team's second-leading scorer in 2000-'01. If his performance at the World Championships last month is any indication, the 6-foot-5 guard should be able to pick up where he left off.
Penney averaged 16.9 points a game, second-highest on the
team, to help
Penney scored 16 points in a 110-62 loss to Team
"If I can take anything from this summer, I hope that confidence is one of those things," Penney said. "When you end up playing against the top NBA players and come back and play in college, there should be confidence, but that can only take you so far."
International competition is nothing new to Penney.
He spent the summer after his freshman year competing in
the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, averaging 6.5 points as New Zealand finished
This year the team spent part of the summer in
"We were talking about the game and how I'd love it if he'd come back and work out with us during the summer," Penney said of his on-the-court conversation with the Badgers' all-time scoring leader. "It was just cool to be in that environment."
But he's glad to be back on campus, too.
At the moment he is catching up on his school work and playing pickup games with teammates. Come Oct. 12, it is back to the business on the court where he's ready to do whatever is asked of him.
"I'm just going to go out there and play my game and do everything I can for us to be successful," he said. "If that requires a greater leadership role then so be it. It's as simple as that."
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