LOS ANGELES — Even though doctors cleared Traevon Jackson before the start of the NCAA tournament, the senior point guard chose not to play in the opening two rounds.
He wasn't willing to play on his broken right foot before he felt confident in it even if it meant risking his team's season ending without him.
[DraftKings: Play Fantasy College Basketball – Draft your team today!]
Jackson's gamble paid off because Wisconsin thumped 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina and thwarted eighth-seeded Oregon's spirited upset bid. Now Jackson says he's "100 percent playing" when the top-seeded Badgers meet fourth-seeded North Carolina on Thursday in a West Regional semifinal.
"Just to be able to play aggressive and play free, that's what I'm looking forward to," Jackson said. "I'm here to help. I'm here to be an addition to the team. That's all I can do. I think I can help out a lot."
Jackson had been Wisconsin's starting point guard until breaking his foot in the second half of a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 11. Promising sophomore Bronson Koenig has averaged 14 points in his last six games to tighten his grip on the starting point guard job, but Jackson still can be a huge asset to Wisconsin if he's healthy as the first guard off the bench.
"If he's physically capable of being on the court, he deserves some time," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "I'm going to reward him for working so hard in the rehab and getting back because he deserves it. Now how many possessions or how many trips up and down the court, that remains to be seen. But no one is agonizing about it over here."
Jackson averaged 9.4 points and 2.6 assists prior to his injury. His ability to create off the dribble and play strong on-ball defense can be an asset to the Badgers.
"He's another fresh body," Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky said. "At this point in the year, that's what you need is people coming off the bench who are ready to contribute to the team. Trae obviously has been a good player in his career. He was a starter until he got hurt. Having him back is very good for us."
- - - - - - -