Berggren making presence felt for Wisconsin

By Gary Larson

Mille Lacs County Times

A headline on a sports page in the Dec. 27, 2007, Mille Lacs County Times read: Berggren, Tigers top Milaca.

The lead paragraph to the story said: Princeton senior Jared Berggren showed why he’s headed to the University of Wisconsin as he led the Tigers past Milaca 61-48 Dec. 20, at Milaca. Berggren scored 32 points, with his exclamation point being a pair of slam dunks.

Berggren did end up at Wisconsin and area basketball fans have been watching the 6-foot-10, 235-pound red shirt junior forward/center sink three-pointers, grab rebounds, block shots and play tough defense in the NCAA Tournament the past couple of weeks, proving that Badger coach Bo Ryan made a good choice.

Wisconsin topped Montana 73-49 and Vanderbilt 60-57 in the tournament before losing to Syracuse 64-63 in the first round of the Sweet 16 Thursday, March 22.

Berggren, one of three former Minnesota prep stars (Jordan Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz are the others) making big contributions for the Badgers, finished the season with a 10.5 scoring average while averaging just under five rebounds per game. He led Wisconsin in blocked shots with 60.

Let’s let Princeton Coach Eric Bjurman tell us about his former ace, who scored 1,561 points and hauled in 823 rebounds for the Tigers. Both are school records, as are his 434 blocked shots.

•What areas of his game have you seen get stronger this season?

•Bjurman: I think the two areas he has improved on this year the most would be defense and driving to the basket. I thought that he did a much better job of using his body and working for position. Very rarely was Jared in the wrong spot or did he get sealed.

•Did you think he would be such a good inside/outside player in college?

•Bjurman: When he was a 10th-grader he had good post moves, so that part of his game has always been real strong. And then between his junior and senior year he had really improved from the outside as a shooter. I knew he had the ability to step out and shoot, but the way he looks so comfortable out there is what has surprised me. In the regular season when he hit the three-pointer to beat Ohio State in Columbus where he wanted the ball in that situation, shows the confidence that he has on the perimeter.

•Did you get to watch Wisconsin’s games in the NCAA? What were your thoughts watching?

•Bjurman: I did get to watch the games. I thought overall Wisconsin had a good tournament run. They played well against Montana in the first round where Jared had seven blocked shots and then beat an excellent Vanderbilt team. And then they went toe-to-toe with Syracuse. I really thought if Jared wouldn’t have gotten in foul trouble in the first half Wisconsin probably wins the game. He had 10 points in 8 minutes and was doing a great job of working against the zone.

•How did Jared get to be such a good three-point shooter?

•Bjurman: Practice, Jared is such a hard worker. He has put a lot of time in practicing shooting and always wants to get better.

•When did you begin to think he just might have Division I potential?

•Bjurman: After his freshman year we brought him with to team camps. The first time I thought he had a chance to be something special was when we were at a team camp at St. Cloud State and playing against Maple Grove, which had two posts that were going to be college players. The first possession of the game the Maple Grove kid caught the ball in the post and drop-stepped  right on Jared, knocking him back a few feet. I turned to Nick Nowak, who was my assistant at the time, and told him I’m not sure if Jared is ready to play at this level. The very next time down the floor Jared caught the ball on the block and did the same thing back to the Maple Grove kid and Nowak let me know that he thought that he was ready for that level. After that game I remember St. Cloud State Coach Kevin Schlagel telling me that Jared would be way better than Division II.

•When did you think he for sure had that kind of talent?

•Bjurman: After his sophomore year he was playing in the Pulley League and went to the Boo Williams Tournament in Virginia. When I got to school on Monday I had phone messages from 10 Division  I schools.

•Could you sum up Jared’s personality and him as a person?

•Bjurman: He is a great kid, very humble and remembers where he came from. He still comes back in the summer and works basketball camp for us and is great to the younger kids.