MADISON, Wis. (BVM) — A great deal of attention was on Johnny Davis and emotional leader Brad Davison during the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2021-22 campaign, and rightfully so. Both Davis and Davison combined for nearly 34 points a game for the Badgers.
However, with Davis and Davison now finished with the program, one could’ve assumed the Badgers would’ve struggled to find a new leader. Nevertheless, the Badgers wasted no time finding one as sophomore guard Chucky Hepburn seems to have captured that leadership role.
“Obviously, there’s a transition in terms of ownership and leadership, and that brings more responsibility,” Wisconsin head basketball coach Greg Gard told Mike Lucas of UWBadgers.com. “He has a louder, more prominent voice in the locker room and in the team huddles.”
Moreover, Hepburn has been the leader of a basketball team before. Back in Nebraska at Bellevue West High School, Hepburn was a four-star recruit and viewed as the second-best player in the state by ESPN. While playing for Bellevue West, Hepburn also won the 2020 Gatorade Nebraska Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Hepburn even suited up on varsity for all four seasons. During the 2020 season; he scored 17.7 points, dished out 6.1 assists and grabbed 4.6 rebounds.
As one could imagine, Hepburn was showered with lofty expectations once he set foot in Madison and he delivered on those. He started in all 33 games and was Wisconsin’s first true freshman to start a season opener since 2001. Hepburn went on to average 7.9 points and 2.3 assists.
However, Hepburn still wasn’t satisfied with the results of the 2021 season and wanted to improve his play on the court. One way Hepburn is continuing to improve his play on the court is by becoming a more reliable shooter from beyond the arc where he shot 35% in 2021. To do this, he has received guidance from NBA champion Fred VanVleet.
“I want to be a more consistent 3-point shooter,” Hepburn told Lucas. “He [VanVleet] helped with some footwork stuff to create more spacing. That was the main focus.”
Along with overcoming his shooting struggles from last year, Hepburn is also overcoming an ankle injury he suffered in Wisconsin’s second-round loss to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament.
If you're squeamish, you may not want to watch this video… but this is a good angle of the injury that took Chucky Hepburn out of the game. pic.twitter.com/QfdsUhraUQ
— Owen Siebring (@owensiebring) March 20, 2022
“I have a screen saver with me down [on the floor],” Hepburn told Lucas. “Just to remind me.”
As the 2022 season inches closer, it’d be easy for one to see how Hepburn and his teammates continue to grow as a team and basketball is arguably the greatest team sport in the world. However, a team needs someone who can lead and give the unit identity. Hepburn will aim to do that this season.
“To take the keys and be a starter as a true freshman, especially at point guard, he was so even keel, so calm, yet competing at a high level,” Gard said at Big 10 media day. “He’s at a much different level now with Brad and Johnny moving on. He’s a bigger voice in the locker room.”