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'Knowing what can be done here is inspiring': Inside UWGB basketball's turnaround

Oshkosh native Preston Ruedinger considers UW-Green Bay his hometown team. Now, back closer to home, he's a key part of the Phoenix's stunning turnaround.
Posted at 10:21 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 23:22:13-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — UW-Green Bay newcomer Preston Ruedinger has taken a liking to his new head coach, Sundance Wicks.

"He's an amazing coach," the UWGB sophomore guard said.

"One of the best I've ever had... and I had my dad as a coach," Ruedinger laughed.

The Fox Valley native won a WIAA state championship in 2021 playing for his dad, Dennis, at Oshkosh Lourdes Academy.

With that background, he brings a winning mentality to a rebuilding program.

"You get winners, they've been through winning things," Wicks, Green Bay's first year head coach, said. "They understand what winning takes."

In about 24 minutes per game, Ruedinger is averaging seven points and three rebounds. He's helped the Phoenix to a 12-9 record, already quadrupling their win total from a year ago.

"The biggest thing with 'Rudy' is that he's just continually getting better," Wicks said of Ruedinger. "And I think that's what you want to see in a season is you want to see growth."

On top of that, Ruedinger understands the Phoenix's winning history. He considers Green Bay his hometown team and remembers coming to games as a kid.

"Watching Keifer Sykes and that era," he said. "Just knowing what can be done here is inspiring."

Ruedinger transferred to UWGB last spring after two seasons at Valparaiso. He expected to help turn the Phoenix program around, but even he is a bit surprised by how quickly they've been able to do it.

"I think the locker room deep down knew what we were capable of," Ruedinger said. "We didn't really know until we put it into action. But the belief that we have in each other has been crazy good. And I think that having belief helped us be where we are."

"It's really rewarding," he added. "Just coming back, playing in front of friends and family that I've played in front of my whole life is really cool.

"And to do it with a new brotherhood of guys is even more special."

Green Bay (7-3) is currently in second place in the Horizon League. The Phoenix host first-place Oakland (7-2) at the Resch Center Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. A win would put UWGB alone in first place atop the conference.