UW MBB: Mike Lucas: Off the court, this friendship runs deep

Photo: Wisconsin Badgers

From UWBadgers.com

BY MIKE LUCAS

UWBadgers.com Senior Writer

MADISON, Wis. — In the final seconds of last Saturday's second round NCAA tournament game, Wisconsin's Vitto Brown was fouled after stripping the ball from Villanova's Josh Hart. Brown walked to the other end of floor and calmly made his first free throw. He was about ready to shoot the second one — which would have staked the Badgers to a four-point lead and sealed another trip to the Sweet 16 — when Ethan Happ got Brown's attention, maybe even distracted him by shouting out "4321."

Brown missed. The Wildcats rebounded, but they couldn't get a shot off.

"I told him not to do it," Brown said.

Moments later, the 65-62 win safely tucked away, Happ was doing a courtside radio interview and saying, "When you get into March, everyone needs to play well for you to advance. And we had everyone stepping up (including) Vitto, my roommate, my brother, 4321 …"

• • • •

The numerical sequence is not a password. But it is code between Brown and Happ, friends and teammates. "4321 was our room number in Ogg Hall," said Happ, who then rattled off "1205 and 101" and explained, "Those were all different places that we've lived together … I consider him my best friend here on campus. It's awesome to have that type of relationship with your roommate."

Although they hail from different parts of the Midwest — it's a six-hour drive (400 miles) between Happ's home in Milan, Illinois and Brown's in Bowling Green, Ohio — they bridged any differences when they roomed together the summer before Happ's freshman year. "Even before I got here," Happ said, "I was texting him about things I needed for college and he has been helping me out ever since."

Going into his sophomore year, Brown was planning on renting an apartment with some UW teammates. "But things changed and some guys wanted to live alone," said Brown, who roomed with Nigel Hayes, a fellow Ohioan, as a freshman. "I saw that Ethan was the only scholarship athlete coming in, so I decided to stay in the dorms again. As soon as he set foot on campus, I've been with him since."

There were some understandable early adjustments because they were not in the same class. "It was kind of different because he already had his friend group," Happ said. "And when most freshmen come in, they room with another freshman. I didn't have that someone to go to all the freshmen orientations. So it was different in that sense. But we were friends right away."

Over the last three years, the friendship has blossomed. "We've grown more and more similar to each other as we've been together," Brown said. "We both appreciate a lot of the same things. We aren't used to being spoiled — having the resources and the access to things that we have now. And we don't take it for granted. We don't take anything for granted."

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