Wisconsin freshman ‘Wurtz’ the wait, price of admission

first_imgTaylor Wurtz has been impressive as a freshman for UW.[/media-credit]If the media guide didn’t contain the necessary information, you probably wouldn’t guess Taylor Wurtz is a freshman.Endowed with an unusual blend of guard skills and enviable size, Wurtz hasn’t spared a moment in making an impression on the Wisconsin women’s basketball team.“She’s just different,” head coach Lisa Stone said of her talented freshman. “She’s willing to work at it to make herself better. She’s an impressive person.”The first glimpse of Wurtz’s potential impact came in the Badgers’ lone exhibition game, a 106-39 undressing of UW-Oshkosh. In just 21 minutes of action, Wurtz filled the stat sheet –finishing with 10 points, five rebounds, four steals, two assists and, most importantly to Stone, zero turnovers.The Wurtz legend really began to grow, however, when the Badgers hosted Cleveland State three games later. Wisconsin trailed 68-67 when Wurtz buried a short jumper in the lane to give UW the lead.Then, with 16.5 seconds left in the game, she made one of two free throws to seal the dramatic victory.“We’re confident with her being the mismatch and her having the ability to take the shot,” Stone said. “It has nothing to do with her age.”Although the jumper against CSU may have been the biggest shot of her very young career, Wurtz is no stranger to bright lights, big numbers and clutch performances.In her career at Ripon High School, Wurtz was a four-time Eastern Valley Conference Player of the Year, an Associated Press All-State First-Team honoree as both a junior and senior, and a second-team selection as a sophomore.She left Ripon — which she led to three consecutive conference titles — as the all-time leader in points, assists, steals and 3-pointers.According to Stone, though, the Badgers’ coaching staff had their eyes on Wurtz, the player ranked No. 85 in the 2009 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, before she even stepped on the court in a high school game — back when she was a “small, little thing.”“I’ve watched Taylor since she was in junior high,” Stone said. “We recruited her throughout high school and had her on our radar list for a long, long time.”Thankfully for Stone, Wurtz said she never seriously considered any other schools, citing a desire to be close to family.Moreover, Wurtz shared the court with current Badgers Lin Zastrow, a junior forward from Jefferson, Wis., and Catie O’Leary, a fellow freshman from Janesville, during Amateur Athletic Union play.“It’s been an adjustment,” Wurtz said of acclimating to the new level. “[But] just to have some familiarity gives you some type of comfort. And from AAU, we’ve grown together, and it’s nice to be able to play at the collegiate level together.”No longer undersized by any stretch of the imagination, the 6-foot freshman already possesses a “Big Ten body,” a quality that allows Wisconsin to deploy her in positions one through four, providing the team with a helpful versatility with its lineup combinations.Despite her natural skills and superior build, Wurtz’s teammates reported her work ethic — something she has demonstrated since setting foot on campus — as the characteristic that sets her apart.“[It] says it all,” Rae Lin D’Alie, a senior guard and Wurtz’ workout partner, said. “A kid that is going to come in and work that hard, and be relentless, is going to see results.”But whether talking about her special talent or her drive, Wurtz said all of her basketball-related life starts with her dad, Lud Wurtz.“My dad is everything to me for basketball,” the younger Wurtz said. “He’s traveled with me all over the country, and he knows the game really well. So, after every game, he’ll sit down with me — he’ll critique me.”In a good indication of how far Taylor’s game has come, she said he no longer challenges her in one-on-one — an avoidance which she said “he blames on a bad hip.”While Wurtz may no longer be able to get the satisfaction of besting her old man, she said he has helped her become the player she is today — one with a bright future at Wisconsin, and hopefully, beyond.“I absolutely love the game, and I think God has given me a lot,” she said. “I want to play basketball as long as I can, so I just (want to) keep developing my skills so I can possibly play overseas or in the WNBA.”Such aspirations are not all that far-fetched considering the time Wurtz is already willing to put in.“She might be the one that most depicts being a gym rat of anyone I’ve coached,” Stone said. “She really is here all the time. I’ve never seen anybody like it. She watches a lot of film, she grasps the concepts, and she really wants to be able to make an impact.”Ever the nit-picker, Wurtz said of her game, “Something I would like to improve is defense off the ball, and rebounding and boxing out.”In the meantime, Wurtz will continue to fill a valuable sixth-man role on this year’s team and inspire her teammates with her determination.“Her intensity, her passion, it’s just — it’s contagious,” D’Alie said. “Just the passion she has, has brought some of my passion back. … I know when she’s out there that no matter what happens, she’s going to go 110 percent. That’s all you can ask as a teammate.”last_img

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