Former Ohio State center Micah Potter ready for big senior season with Wisconsin
The timing seemed to be straight out of a bad movie script.
More than a year removed from his decision to quit the Ohio State men’s basketball team and transfer, Micah Potter was finally granted eligibility to play for the University of Wisconsin a few weeks into the 2019-20 season. He would make his Badgers debut in a home win against Milwaukee and see time in two more non-conference tune-up games before turning his full attention to his return to Big Ten action.
It just so happened to be in a road game against his former team. Potter would contribute four points, three rebounds, two turnovers and two fouls in 11 minutes, but the Badgers left Value City Arena with a 61-57 win against a Buckeyes team ranked No. 5 in the country.
Wisconsin would go just 4-5 in its next nine games but close the season with an eight-game winning streak that propelled the Badgers to a share of the Big Ten title. Looking back, Potter said his return to his home state was meaningful from a team aspect more than it was personal.
“Obviously everybody knows where I was at before I went here, but the biggest thing I think was it was a team thing,” Potter said Tuesday during a video interview. “Ohio State obviously at that point was playing really well and we were able to go in there and that was our first real big statement win. I think for us as a group, it really was helpful to give us confidence that, wow, we can actually play at this level and it gave us the confidence throughout the season to continue to do that.”
Potter’s role would grow as the season progressed as well. Primarily coming off the bench for the Badgers, Potter led the team in rebounding (6.2 per game) and was second in scoring (10.1 per game) on a balanced roster that saw seven players average between 8.0-13.1 points per game. His breakout game came in a 58-49 win against Penn State only eight days after the Ohio State game when he put up 24 points and 13 rebounds.
An offseason of uncertainty was nothing new for Potter, though, and actually might have been more settled than it was for most. Multiple appeals for immediate eligibility were denied by the NCAA, meaning Potter was not allowed to play until the end of the fall semester after leaving the Ohio State program during the 2018 fall semester. It cost him the full 2018-19 season and the first 10 games of the following year.
This year, though, Potter knew one thing: as long as the Badgers were playing, he was, too.
“That was the biggest thing was the uncertainty,” he said of last year’s preseason. “We have the certainty now. I’m not having to sit out for extra reps so other guys can have more reps. I’m actually in practice, I’m doing all the drills, I’m getting all the reps that I need to get compared to last year where I couldn’t really get as many because other guys needed to get reps so they could get ready for the game.”
The Badgers entered the 2020 postseason with as much momentum as any team in the country, but the cancelation of the remainder of the season meant they would never get a chance to see how far they could go. They enter this season returning seven of their top eight most-played roster members, and coach Greg Gard said at the start of the preseason that expectations are “unprecedented” for this group of players.
That includes Potter, who is expecting big things from the one overarching goal shared by his teammates.
“That’s the big goal, is to win,” he said. “Wanted to win a Big Ten championship; got it last year. Want to win it again. Want to win the Big Ten tournament. Want to win an NCAA Tournament. Just want to win. Team success is what drives individual success.”