Wisconsin Badgers – Quarantine House
COVID-19. Six months ago, nobody knew your name. Today, however, everyone wants to forget you ever existed. You have taken away precious life and halted everything that has seemed normal in our day to day living. It seems pretty inconsequential at the moment, but I hate that you took sports away from us…especially March Madness. My buddies and I had to cancel our annual pilgrimage to the Big Ten Tournament. I didn’t have to take work off for afternoon “appointments” the Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament. We saw Brevin Pritzl take his final shot in a Badger uniform without even knowing it was his final shot.
That isn’t to say that all is bad right now. My dogs are really excited the family is at home day and night. My four kids are single-handedly making sure our local grocery stores are making money hand over first with all of the food they have eaten since the middle of March. To the best of my knowledge, my wife hasn’t sought out divorce papers in the last month, so I must not be on her last nerve yet. I assume the 19 in COVID-19 also stands for the amount of pounds gained during “Safer at Home”, but, good news, I can still fit into all my pants!! So what if they have elastic waistbands and not buttons. For the first time in many years I will get to watch the NFL draft from start to finish, which is especially great because my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins, have almost half the picks in the entire draft I think…and I am waiting on pins and needles to see how they mess up the quarterback situation for the seventeenth or eighteenth time since Dan Marino retired. You know it’s bad when I long for the days of Jay Fiedler.
While I was in-between planning lessons for my high school students, I watched the BTN special “The Badgers Are Back” (great watch if you haven’t already seen it) which was a Zoom get together with some of the top players during the last two Final Four runs. Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Zak Showalter told some of the stories about their times in a Wisconsin uniform. The guys looked like they were having a ton of fun. Which got me thinking…what former UW players would be the most enjoyable guys to be housemates with and spend months of quarantine together?
I decided to find three roommates for my make-believe “Wisconsin Badger Quarantine House”. I am sure a four-bedroom place in Madison would be pretty easy to find at a reasonable price. Now to figure out who can help pay the rent…
The first former Badger roommate has to be my all-time favorite player, Kirk Penney. I will never forget the crushing feeling driving home from Minneapolis after the Badgers lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 his senior year. They were definitely underdogs that game, and played their hearts out, but the end of an era always hurts a little bit. The guy absolutely crushed it while on the court in Madison. He was one of the last true three level scorers to wear the Cardinal and White. One of the roommates has to be tough as nails, and I think Kirk would fill that roll. I mean, he ended up at Wisconsin largely because he got the attention of Tony Bennett when he wacked him in the nose as the two went for a loose ball in a game in New Zealand. Bennett was fresh off a few stints in the NBA, while Penney was only 15 years old. Guy is clearly not intimated!! I also feel like Penney could help us become TikTok famous by teaching us the haka and putting it out there for the world to see.
Frank Kaminsky would be the second roommate in the “Wisconsin Badgers Quarantine House”. You have to have a goofy, spontaneous, fun-loving roommate. We all watched the team make runs to back to back Final Fours and the amount of excitement they had along the way. Frank the Tank was the leader of that pack!! It also helps that Frank came to Wisconsin seemingly like just an average tall kid who would eat up some minutes in the rotation eventually. And then the 43-point North Dakota game happened his junior year and the rest is history. Frank is arguably the best Badger to ever play at Wisconsin and definitely the owner of the two best seasons in the program’s history. You could see his passion on the court, but you could also tell that he loved being out there with the guys. Frank would add some life to the house when you reach Day 51 and see no light at the end of the tunnel. Frank the Tank would be the ultimate funk buster and the party planner for the crew. Can you really have a party with only four people? I am sure Frank will help us find a way.
The third and final roommate spot goes to Alando Tucker. His tenure while at Wisconsin was around the time I started purchasing season tickets, so I probably saw him play in person more than any other player. It’s harder to get to games now with four kids who are all active in their own sports. Those days were amazing though. I will never forget freshman Tucker’s coming out part in 2002 against UNLV. It was his first career start and he was absolutely unstoppable against the Runnin’ Rebels, scoring 24 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. I also hold him responsible for my groomsmen and I being 15 minutes late for pictures on my wedding day that early afternoon. We just couldn’t leave the house with that masterpiece on the tube. So many memorable moments with him at Wisconsin – the levitation tip-in against Kentucky in the aforementioned Sweet 16 game or being at the end of Devin Harris’ alley-oop pass in the waning seconds of a game against Michigan State that had Izzo claiming “I’ll remember that” to what he viewed as an unnecessary possession at the end of the game (for the record, I am a “play until the final whistle” kind of guy so I was a big fan of how it went down). I was in the stands for all five of Alando’s last games as a Badger, all of which took place at the United Center in Chicago. It is somewhat ironic that the same UNLV program that Tucker had his monster game against as a freshman was the same one that ended his career abruptly in the Windy City. Who knows what would have happened if Brian Butch hadn’t dislocated his elbow towards the end of that season. I think that team makes the Final Four. I don’t want Tucker as a roommate because of his basketball acumen, however. I want him as a roommate because the guy is a world class person and absolutely as loyal as they come. The way he has stepped up into the UW assistant coaching position to support Howard Moore is frankly amazing. The lifestyle of a college coach is tough, with long nights on the recruiting trail along with the games, practices, film sessions and much more behind the scenes happenings. When you have a young family like Tucker does, you are definitely making a sacrifice. Alando Tucker decided to step into a role he never intended because of his love for Howard Moore and his love for his alma mater. And man oh man, did he bring the fire while coaching. You could see the passion in his eyes and the way he was able to build relationships with his players. That guy definitely has to have a room in the “Wisconsin Badgers Quarantine House”.
So there you have it, Penny, Frank the Tank, Alando and myself in “Wisconsin Badgers Quarantine House”. The New Zealand Tough Guy, the class clown, the ultimate people person and the regular Joe will have no problem coexisting until April 24. Scratch that, new “Safer at Home” restrictions have us out until May 26 you say? At least we can start golfing now. I am not a golfer, but I can drive the cart with the best of them. We can use a cart, right?
Article By: Brian Denu
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