MADISON, Wis. - Traevon Jackson sat on the scorer's table in his practice jersey, watching Wisconsin teammates run up and down the floor.
Ideally, the point guard didn't want to spend one of his final practices at home as a spectator. He is the senior leader for coach Bo Ryan, a Chester High School graduate. And he is so trusted by teammates that he took the last shot in last season's one-point Final Four loss to Kentucky.
But after missing more than two months with a broken right foot, the senior is simply grateful to get one more chance to return to the NCAA tournament's brightest stage. The Badgers play the Wildcats in a rematch in the national semifinals Saturday night.
"All this stuff that happened, to be able to go to back-to-back Final Fours - I prayed for this consistently over and over again," Jackson said in a phone interview. The team said Jackson sat out practice Tuesday just for precautionary rest.
Faith, Jackson said, is his foundation. It is what helped him persevere through the pain and rehab process.
Jackson has hit four game-tying or winning jumpers in his career. At last year's Final Four, Jackson hit two foul shots with 16 seconds left to give Wisconsin a 73-71 lead before Aaron Harrison hit the game-winning three with 6 seconds left. Jackson missed that last shot at the buzzer.
This season, the Badgers were cruising at 15-1 when Jackson got hurt. Already without star center Frank Kaminsky because of a concussion, Wisconsin lost at Rutgers, 67-62, that day after Jackson departed following 26 minutes with the foot injury. He was playing well at the time, averaging 9.4 points.
The Badgers lost depth when sophomore Bronson Koenig moved into the starting lineup. But the team adjusted and kept rolling.