Rob Schultz: A Penney for your thoughts
UW guard enjoyed exciting off-season
By Rob Schultz
In many ways, Kirk
Penney's life hasn't changed much since he first stepped on the
He's still a bit weary
from all the summer travel while playing international basketball with his team
That's why his development into one of the country's top collegiate basketball players has been so refreshing.
After dominating Big
Ten Conference games at times last season as a junior with the Badgers, the
6-foot-5 guard from
Just don't ask him
about driving past former UW star Michael Finley for a layup or how he put the
clamps on NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. His efforts in
He got more excited
talking about rubbing elbows with Nowitzki in the
hotel that all the teams - with the exception of the hoity-toity and overrated
"I'm so excited to have a coach for a second year in a row and just, like, know what's going on, know the system," said Penney, who played for Dick Bennett as a freshman, Brad Soderberg as a sophomore and Bo Ryan as a junior.
In each of those years, Penney started the season slowly as he tried to find his niche. Last year was particularly difficult because he added weight and strength after Ryan had him add an inside game to go along with his former role as a sniper.
Penney said he thoroughly enjoyed playing for Ryan last season when the Badgers grabbed a share of the Big Ten Conference title. "But playing for him and knowing exactly where he's coming from (this season) is really going to be good," said Penney, who has maintained the weight and strength that he gained before last season.
Add to it the experience and confidence he also has gained and many are expecting this season to be beyond good for him. Penney already is one of 50 players chosen for the Wooden Award Preseason All-America Team. There are few returning Big Ten guards that can match his lofty credentials, so he also will be a candidate for conference player of the year honors.
Mention the confidence
factor to Penney and that's where he sees the biggest change in his game. He
gained some playing a minor role helping the Badgers reach the Final Four as a
freshman. He gained some more playing a minor role for
It was far different
this summer playing with
"When you're 19 years old and playing in the Olympics, it's an awesome experience and you're so happy to be there. This is a whole different deal now," Penney said, "your role is a lot different.
"Confidence is huge," he added. "My team had it and every individual on that team had confidence in themselves and it rubbed off on everyone else."
Penney is hoping the same situation will occur with the young but talented Badgers, who will be counting on his confidence, talent and experience as the team's lone senior.
His plan is to do everything asked of him to help the Badgers win. "If that requires a great leadership role, so be it. It's as simple as that," said Penney. "There are no pre-thoughts going into the season in terms of that. If I feel like, or if coach feels like, it needs to be there vocally or by example ... it'll have to be there."
Penney has been playing
catch-up at school because the World Championships were still going on during
the first week of school and then he had to fly to
He spent much of his
Penney thought about what's most important in his life and reminded himself not to look too far ahead and enjoy his senior year.
"I don't want to take any of that enjoyment away because of wanting to play professionally. That will come," he said. "If I work hard enough, there will be opportunities there somewhere. I just want to enjoy my last basketball season with the Badgers. It's been so much fun so fast, such a thrill and I'm so glad to come over to the States and do this. It's the time of your life. You're so young and there are so many good times to be had."
Published: 9:26 AM