Wisconsin has been in the news recently for two seniors being involved in off-the-court activism. Senior point guard Bronson Koenig has stood up for Native Americans by joining the Dakota Pipeline protest and holding a clinic for local kids while senior forward Nigel Hayes has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement in trying to draw attention to that cause.
On Monday, Badgers head coach Greg Gard strongly supported his two senior leaders taking a stance for things that they cared about as he answered questions about the duo in a press conference.
“I think the first thing is you have to applaud them for bringing awareness to both situations,” Gard said. “Obviously, the depth of their knowledge and their intellect in both areas really has helped me. I’ve learned a lot more about it and I’ve talked to them about it both individually and as a team. And I really applaud them for what they’ve done and the stance they’ve taken. We’ve obviously supported them in two different issues.”
Gard went on to talk about how both Koenig and Hayes are doing a great job of being student-athletes who have grown on-and-off the floor since coming to Wisconsin.
“They’re using college for what it should be used for. You try to better yourself. You try to educate yourself. You expand your horizons,” Gard said. “One thing we’ve talked t0 them about is being cautious. Understand ramifications in tomorrow and understand them in six weeks and six months and how it all plays out. I commend them for how they’ve grown, how they’ve matured. They understand and have really grasped the idea of student-athlete.
“They’re way more than just a basketball player. I think that has shown through with their actions and statements here.”
One main takeaway from Gard’s answers is how he seems to be on the same page with his players and his team over the activism. While these subjects can sometimes be divisive and difficult to discuss in a public forum, Gard mentioning that the team has talked about these issues seems to be a positive for a team that has high hopes moving forward. If Wisconsin can rally together around issues away from basketball then it might be a good sign that this can staff focused on being a major threat in the Big Ten.