Frank the Tank, stenographer central: Welcome to Wisconsin
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Frank the Tank takes credit for Captain America.
Nigel Burgundy is not at the Final Four this year for Wisconsin. But his alter ego, forward Nigel Hayes, is - and he's brought with him a newfound obsession for stenography.
Welcome to fun-loving Wisconsin, which has a cast of characters that sounds as if it is straight out of a Will Ferrell movie.
But once coach Bo Ryan whistles practice into session, it's all business for the Badgers.
''Believe me, when they get on the practice court, they're looking at film, they're playing in the games,'' Ryan said before practice Thursday. ''They understand what competition is about.''
The chemistry has developed over two seasons into one of the best teams in the country. Wisconsin has returned to the national semifinals with largely the same roster, led by player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky.
Once shy before the cameras, Kaminsky has blossomed, somewhat reluctantly, into a media darling for a deadpan delivery and the way he pokes fun at himself.
It's a good thing that Kaminsky has gotten more comfortable in front of the cameras this year given all the attention that he has received for his inside-out play.
''Personally, I like doing the fun stuff,'' Kaminsky said this week at a news conference in Madison. ''Sitting up here in front of you guys gets boring, so whenever we get out and get an opportunity to do something that's fun and there is something that we actually get out of it, it's a lot of fun!''
The student section serenaded Kaminsky with ''Frank the Tank'' chants, a mantra that the 7-footer has embraced.
It sounds simple, but Ryan encourages his team to enjoy the moment; to have fun; and to be themselves.
''You can either try to stifle certain things or you can feed the certain things, you can enjoy certain things,'' Ryan said. ''But the fun that our guys have is all about their relationships and the things that they're interested in, the things they're competitive about. They have more fun with the bragging rights of video games.''
And needling each other, too.
Kaminsky assigned guard Josh Gasser the nickname of ''Captain America.'' The fifth-year senior dives for loose balls, takes charges and generally plays as if he's wearing a suit of armor.
''Credit Frank for the `Captain America,''' cracked Kaminsky, referring to himself in the third person.
If Kaminsky is the lead jokester, Hayes is his sophomore apprentice.
Hayes was the sixth man a year ago. He walked around the locker room during NCAA Tournament media availabilities with a camera and microphone to conduct his own mock interviews as ''Nigel Burgundy.'' That name was play off the mustachioed, bumbling reporter that Ferrell played in the comedy ''Anchorman.''
Now Hayes is a starter, part of the versatile, inside-out trio that also includes Sam Dekker. He's always been funny, teammates and coaches say. It's just now that people are noticing it more as he's playing a bigger role on the team.
''When I was asked about our guys, the camaraderie, the fun they have, Nigel is one of the leaders in there,'' Ryan said.
Hayes had one of the most viral moments of the tournament for - of all things - a fledgling interest in transcription. To keep one stenographer at the news conference on alert, Hayes started an answer to one question with the words ''cattywampus, onomatopoeia and antidisestablishmentarianism.''
The big-word buzz apparently generated interest in stenographer classes at a Madison-area school, and ''cattywampus'' T-shirts are selling out.
''The fact that a shirt is being made and sold and has sold out is pretty egregious given the fact that - I don't deserve any royalties or anything like that, I'm an athletic student of the NCAA - but I guess it's been a good thing,'' an expressionless Hayes said earlier this week.
''The stenography world and faithful appreciate it,'' Hayes joked. ''How ironic, seeing that it wouldn't be a shirt without me saying those things. ... Just glad to be part of the hoopla, I guess.''
Winning makes it even more fun. At 35-3, Wisconsin has set a school record for wins.
Former Duke player Grant Hill, who will serve as a TV analyst for the Final Four, called Kaminsky and teammates ''goofballs.''
''There's a real togetherness, real sense of brotherhood with that team.'' Hill said Thursday. ''I mean, you could make the argument that every team has that, but Wisconsin, they were very playful, silly at times with one another, and it's refreshing - it's refreshing to see.''
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.