It’s been a long time since Josh Gasser stepped on a court and felt 100 percent, but the day when he can do so again appears to be getting closer for the fifth-year senior guard on the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team.

For starters, Gasser has ditched the brace he wore last season while starting 38 games in his return from a major knee injury.

The next step is getting back to the point he was at before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and damaged the lateral collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 27, 2012.

Gasser said earlier this week that he feels great, and at least one observer at the Badgers’ summer practices says it shows.

“He looks great,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “He’s working hard. I think he’s ready to take another step and make the transition without (the brace). So far, so good.”

Gasser exceeded expectations in his return last season, averaging 8.8 points and 4.0 rebounds while playing 1,270 minutes, the second-highest total on the team behind Ben Brust’s program-record 1,318.

Not only did Gasser earn Big Ten Conference All-Defensive team honors for the second time in his career, his toughness and moxie were critical to UW’s run to the Final Four.

But the season took its toll on Gasser, who was constantly managing pain and, at times, reluctantly backing off during practices so he’d be ready for games.

“I had no idea what to expect going into last year,” Gasser said. “I was just trying to get myself on the court and trying to help my team. I wasn’t going to let my teammates down, so I was going to give everything I had. I knew, skill-wise, I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be.”

Gasser took two weeks off after UW’s season ended with a 74-73 loss to Kentucky in the Final Four and was anxious to get back on the floor. But during spring workouts and particularly in certain drills in the weight room, Gasser continued to feel the same pain in his lower abdomen and groin that had nagged him late in the season.