If this were a list based solely on talent, Josh Gasser probably wouldn’t even be an honorable mention. I mean, he only averaged 6.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and .8 steals per game as a 5th year senior. Heck, those numbers are probably not even good enough to crack the top 30. The truth is, nothing in the box score will ever do justice to how valuable Gasser was. Yet, I’m betting that no Wisconsin fan will argue with him being here. The record book, awards and his nickname, “Captain America” have proven just how much he has meant to this program.
Let’s start with the nickname. Captain America. That nickname, given to him by Frank Kaminsky, and passionately continued by the fans, suits Gasser perfectly. The unheralded recruit, who made the team only because another recruit was kicked off the team, became an immediate starter. The unlucky player who suffered a devastating, season-ending ACL tear, fought and returned stronger than ever. The unquestioned leader who embodies the spirit of toughness and persistence for five years.
Nobody played with more passion and energy than Gasser. His intangibles were unmatched, as he won every single loose ball possible. Gasser was the guy that opposing players hated to see in front of them as much as his teammates loved to see him beside them. Nobody, and I mean nobody, played with more heart than Captain America. He was really the ultimate glue-guy and ultimate leader. The leader of a team that reached back-to-back Final Four’s.
A trip in to the record book shows just how great he was. He’s started more games, played in more games, and played more minutes than any other Wisconsin player ever. Ever. Maybe we picked the wrong Avenger for his nickname. Iron Man would make just as much sense. And not only did he play in all those games, but he won a lot of them. In fact, he has the most regular season and tournament wins in Wisconsin history.
In his four tournaments, he reached the Sweet 16 twice, the Final Four twice, and the National Championship game. I know that a lot of that has to do with the team, but Gasser did play a huge role. His clutch threes, timely hustle plays, and ability to lockdown opposing stars were imperative in both of Wisconsin’s Final Four trips. If you think Wisconsin would have won as much games over the last five years without Gasser, you need to get some help.
Last, but not least, Gasser was also one of two badger players to record 1,000 points, 500 assists, and 250 rebounds over their careers. It’s extremely impressive to be so productive over such a long period of a time. You rarely see that in college basketball anymore.
While box scores may not have done him justice, he was rewarded with some very impressive awards. He was named to the All Big 10 defensive team three years in a row. It’s a well-deserved recognition, as he has generally been regarded as one of the premier defenders in the country. Just ask D’angelo Russell. He was also named to Sports Illustrated’s All-Glue team two years in a row, given to the top glue guys in the country. As I said, nobody ever outworked Gasser.
So while Gasser may not be the most talented player ever, and he didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, his intangibles were outstanding. He was a winner, a defender, a leader, a glue guy, and a warrior. Captain America. It’s just the perfect nickname for him. And there’s no argument that he doesn’t deserve to be on this list. He’s the 10th best Badger of the Bo Ryan era.
Writing all of this reminds me of another Badger glue guy, Michael Flowers. And it made me realize how dumb it was that I didn’t put him in the honorable mention article. That Texas game… If anyone can match the intensity of Gasser, it’s Flowers.
Come back tomorrow to see who number 8 is. Hint.
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