Dedication leads Valentyn out of backstage, onto floor

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)If you’ve ever walked past Brett Valentyn on campus during a weekday afternoon, you probably didn’t give him much of a second glance.You probably didn’t peg him to be a college athlete, much less a member of the Wisconsin men’s basketball team, a program that has accepted 12 consecutive invitations to play in the NCAA tournament.And most fans of the team might not even recognize his name despite the fact that he has been a staple on the team for over four years now.Valentyn, a native of nearby Verona and former walk-on, spent nearly the entirety of his first four years with the Badgers in the backstage – practicing on the scout team and watching games from the bench.But lately, that trend has been shaken up a bit.After redshirting his freshman year, Valentyn averaged no more than just 2.1 minutes on the floor for the Badgers, with most of those minutes coming in “garbage” time, when the game already been convincingly decided.This year, however, his numbers have risen to 5.5 minutes per game, and Valentyn has found his number being called far before garbage time arrives.Against Michigan on Jan. 5, Valentyn played a career high 11 minutes – seeing time in both the first and second halves – where he went on to hit a pivotal three-pointer from the corner to extend a Wisconsin lead to 11 points with over three minutes left.“It feels good; it’s what I’ve been working for since I got here,” Valentyn said. “It’s always been my goal to get on the floor and play significant minutes in big games – it feels good to do that and I’ve got to work hard to continue that.”An AP all-state honorable mention his senior year at Verona High School, Valentyn turned down opportunities to play basketball at smaller schools outside of Division I – where he no doubt would have received more playing time – for a chance to attend the Wisconsin School of Business and join the basketball team as a walk-on.As far as appearances go, the 6-foot-4, 195 lb. shooting guard doesn’t quite radiate an air of basketball prowess, and even Valentyn himself admits that he wouldn’t describe himself as a “physical specimen.” But nevertheless, Valentyn has certain attributes that are hard to ignore.“He’s obviously pretty cerebral, he understands the game and he’s not going to make a bad decision,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “Perimeter shooting wise, he’s very good; the odds of him knocking down shots are very good.”Valentyn found a way onto the squad prior to the 2006-07 season and quickly established himself as a marksman from the arc while his hard work and basketball smarts earned him the role of mimicking the future opponent’s most dangerous player in the backcourt during practice.Despite earning an important role in keeping the team prepared week in and week out, Valentyn’s presence on the floor didn’t increase too much, but that never resulted in a lack of effort.He wasn’t the only one, though. Senior guard Wquinton Smith, a good friend of Valentyn’s and another walk-on who also earned an increase in playing time this year, endured the unglamorous side of a collegiate athlete along with Valentyn.“Being a walk-on, we got to work a lot more harder than everybody else [to get noticed] so we make sure we work harder than everybody else and make sure we’re leading and get noticed, which happened to both of us this year,” Smith said.And noticed he was. After years of lifting weights, running hills and imitating upcoming opponents in practice, Valentyn now finds his number being called more often to help his team win.No. 15 has appeared in 11 games this year, already a career high, and has scored 16 points for the Badgers, also a career high.His biggest contribution still might occur in practice, away from the lights and cameras, but the rest of the Badgers know how important his presence on the team is.“The better he practices, the better it makes us defensively because we got to work that much harder to guard him in practice,” Gard said.And considering all the other options that Valentyn had to play basketball with scholarships offered up front, he still doesn’t regret the path he chose at Wisconsin.“I’m surrounded by great teammates, good guys, good bunch of friends, good coaching staff… I love it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything and all the hard work, it feels good that it’s paying off even more this year.”last_img

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