No More Mr. Nice Guy

Sam Dekker (USA Today Images)

Admitting he was too passive at times in No.3 Wisconsin's three-point loss at Indiana Tuesday, sophomore Sam Dekker is hoping to get his edge back when the Badgers host Michigan this evening.

MADISON - By all accounts, Sam Dekker is a nice guy.

He's got over 2,700 friends on Facebook and has over 26,000 followers on Twitter. He's by all accounts a good teammate, a friendly personality and a very good basketball player.

But in basketball, nice guys seldom finish first, which is why the Wisconsin coaching staff is trying to develop an edge with its budding superstar.

"A lot of it just going to have to be himself, coming to that realization," said assistant coach Gary Close. "You can show him things on tape and point things out to him as examples, but hopefully with maturity and experience he'll get a feel for it.

"It's more from within. I think he's got to come to grips with that and realize this league's a bear. He's gotten some recognition, so he's not going to be sneaking around people."

Dekker was one of the many disappointed people following No.3 Wisconsin's first loss of the season – a 75-72 setback on Tuesday as Assembly Hall.

Dekker finished with 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 35 minutes against the Hoosiers. Those numbers could have been better, however, as he missed a dunk attempt, passed up several open shots, took half his shots from the perimeter and, like many of his teammates, didn't execute on defense.

"I am pretty disappointed in myself because I wasn't very aggressive," said Dekker, who has a team-best 14.0 points per game and has scored in double figures 13 times this season. "Hindsight is always 20-20 on stuff you could have done better. I don't know what it was. I just felt like I wasn't aggressive. I don't know what it was. I don't know why I did that. It's something you can't get back so you've got to try to make up for it the next game and just go out there and do what I do both."

Although appearing like a savvy veteran, Dekker is a relative newbie on the Big Ten scene. This evening when No.3 Wisconsin (16-1, 3-1 Big Ten) hosts Michigan (12-4, 4-0), it will be only be Dekker's 26th games against a Big Ten opponent and only his fifth start.

It's not the first time Dekker has had to be reminded to be aggressive either. Against Marquette in December, Dekker only attempted two shots in the first 10-plus minutes, causing point guard Traevon Jackson to tell him, point blank, to be more aggressive and assertive.

He scored 18 points (6-for-9) in the final 29:40 of game after Jackson's pep talk for a 70-64 victory.

Among the league's top shooters, Dekker is converting 50.9 percent of his shots overall (13th in the Big Ten) and 35.1 percent from 3-point range, but only attempted two shots inside the perimeter in the final 13 minutes Tuesday. It was during that stretch that Wisconsin saw a 52-42 lead dwindle rapidly following seven empty possessions.

"I don't know why I wasn't being as normally aggressive as I usually am," said Dekker. "Usually I'm not passing up open looks and usually I'm attacking the rim. I don't know why I wasn't. I don't really have an answer for that."

Given off on Wednesday, Wisconsin appeared to return lose and ready on Thursday. Dekker said that while losing wasn't ideal, it sends the message to everyone that the Badgers still have a lot of work to do if they want to accomplish their goal of a conference championship.

He also believes Wisconsin is still in the driver's seat, as long as it can make corrections and take care of business.

"Sometimes you've got to take some blows to the chin to see how tough of a team you are," said Dekker.

Perhaps it was a sucker punch that will also motivate Dekker, too.

"All I can say is I'm going to try to do a much better job of that from here on out and not let that happen again," he said.

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