Frank Kaminsky will go down as one of, if not the greatest players to put on a Badgers basketball uniform in history. On Thursday night that truth will be spoken in the form of Kaminsky having his number retired by the Wisconsin Badgers prior to the tip of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers.
But, Kaminsky wasn’t always guaranteed to be a success story at the collegiate level. He came to UW as a somewhat skinny 7-footer with a jump shot, ranked as the No. 242 ranked player in the country and the No. 23 ranked center in the nation. Not exactly the stuff that would make up legends.
Four years later and Kaminsky would leave the Badgers to an appearance in the national championship game and become consensus national Player of the Year. His rise from freshman nobody to senior star is well-documented, but it’s also a story with telling over and over again, because it’s a great story of personal growth and a reminder that hard work matters as much as skill does.
According to an article by Jesse Temple at Land of 10, Kaminsky thought himself to be out of shape and saw it hindering his chances to contribute at Wisconsin. The culprit? Qdoba.
Frank Kaminsky once told me he was overweight and out of shape as a freshman because he loved to eat Qdoba. He turned into one of the great stories in the history of Wisconsin's basketball program. An appreciation of Frank the Tank. #Badgers https://t.co/hpZOzGsOT2
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) February 15, 2018
He worked hard in the offseason and returned for his sophomore year down in weight and body fat. But, Kaminsky still wasn’t ready for the big time, averaging just 10.7 minutes, 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds
Few saw the next two seasons coming, including now head coach Greg Gard, who candidly said he wasn’t sure if Kaminsky would ever be a player at Wisconsin.
“The path he came on from when he was a freshman to a sophomore to where he finished is unbelievable in terms of how he improved, how he grew,” Gard said, via Land of 10. “Obviously, he is a poster child in terms of a player putting in so much time and such a commitment to develop and make yourself into what he was and is.
“He wasn’t very good as a freshman. I didn’t know if he could play for us. And then he committed himself to a lot of work, a lot of time on his own. He changed his body, changed some of his habits, really committed himself to it and then also figured some things out. He grew into his body a little bit, too.”
The ability to look inward for change was huge for Kaminsky’s growth, and after two years of that hard work he became a force for the Badgers out of nowhere.
His junior season was impressive, as Kaminsky averaged 13.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. That was just a taste of what Kaminsky could do though. He continued to work on his post game and became nearly unstoppable as a scary mix of sharp-shooter, low post force and defensive dynamo.
Kaminsky’s final season saw him put up a crazy stat line, Badgers uniform or not. He averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.5 blocks per game, while also shooting 54.7 percent from the field and a UW-career best 41.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Those numbers helped him leave Wisconsin with a degree and one of the greatest single seasons and careers in program history. What is really unique is that you won’t be able to tell the story of Frank Kaminsky just by looking at the record books alone. His name appears inside the top 10 of just two major categories (field goals and field goal percentage) outside of being No. 1 in blocked shots. All of that despite being 4th in games played in a career (144).
If anything, it tells you just how legendary and impressive the final two seasons were. Kaminsky does own the most points (732) and second-most rebounds (320) in a single season in UW history.
But, let’s not forget the real story here — if it weren’t for hard work and personal growth, Kaminsky, and the Badgers, likely never get where they got to by his final season. That’s the real story and the real reason Kaminsky means so much to the program.
There’s no doubt his No. 44 hanging in the rafters is a just honor for his play on the court and his hard work off of it.
Badgers basketball lands pair of 4-star players in 2021 class
Witnessing a win over the Northwestern Wildcats must have done the trick, because two of Wisconsin’s biggest targets in the 2021 class both committed on Sunday.
First to commit was the more surprising name, as Top247 point guard Chucky Hepburn.
The No. 23 ranked point guard and No. 141 ranked player in the country per the 247Sports composite rankings chose the Badgers over offers from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Creighton. He also was beginning to see interest from some of the bigger names in college basketball, but chose to pick a team that had been on him for awhile.
“I called coach Gard 30 minutes ago and committed,” Hepburn told Badger247. “The education part was really great. I loved all the academic advisors are part of the basketball program and how they work with them.
“With the basketball side, I fit perfectly with the system they run. I feel like the assistant coaches will help me get where I want to be, because they all played professionally before.”
But, not long after that news broke, word of the biggest target on UW’s list committing would break as well.
Wisconsin would add 4-star forward Matthew Mors to the mix as well.
Mors comes to the Badgers ranked as the No. 115 player in the country and the No. 22 power forward in the nation as well.
The Badgers had been on Mors since his eighth grade year and the persistence paid off, despite other offers across the Big Ten and Big 12 coming to him.
Mors chose Wisconsin over names like Creighton, Iowa State, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, TCU, and more.
With these two pledges, the Badgers have solidified their 2021 recruiting class rather early and they hit on all their top priority prospects as well.
Hepburn and Mors join fellow 4-star player in 6-8 power forward Chris Hodges. With three 4-star players to their name, the Badgers currently own the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
Yes, Wisconsin isn’t likely to own that No. 1 ranking by the end of the class, but there’s no doubt that the Badgers have done something special in the 2021 class.
It is a huge statement for head coach Greg Gard after the program missed out on some massive in-state names in the past few classes. Many had begun to wonder if the Badgers could ever hit on big targets with Gard as the head coach.
Those thoughts should be put to rest with this class and how the Badgers closed out the 2020 class prior to this.
It should also be noted that assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft was the lead recruiter on each of the last four overall commitments for the Badgers, including 2020 names Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson.
Of course, we won’t know for a while how these big recruiting numbers stack up once they get on the floor for some time. But, winning on the recruiting trail like this puts the Badgers in a much better spot to be competitive for a very long time than previously thought.
Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class
It appears the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers basketball class has come to a close.
The four-star center chose the Badgers over a who’s who of basketball offers in the Midwest including Ohio State, Xavier, Stanford, Purdue, Creighton, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa State, Kansas State, Wake Forest, and others.
Much like Crowl, Carlson took his official visit to Madison earlier this month for the Central Michigan football game.
Carlson comes to the Badgers as the No. 15 ranked forward in the entire country per the 247Sports composite rankings, the No. 82 ranked player overall and with a .967 grade from the composite.
He was high up the Badgers list for a long time, even as they targeted other highly rate options at forward like Jalen Johnson. However, as the board began to shake out, it was clear the Badgers wanted Carlson no matter what Johnson or anyone else was going to do in this class.
It appears that the relationship that Carlson formed with the current roster while on his visit is what put the Badgers over the top in this lengthly recruitment.
“A big focus was on getting to know the players, so I hung out with them a lot,” Carlson told Badger247. “They talked about how the coaching staff tells you straight-up how everything is going to be, they don’t sugarcoat anything. They told me about how much they liked it there.”
“I had a pretty good idea of how Wisconsin was going in,” he continued. “The biggest thing was getting to know the players and I really liked them. I know about the history and the campus, but getting to know the players was big for sure.”
Adding this type of nationally known name to an already big class is huge for the Badgers. In fact, UW has the No. 4 ranked class per the 247Sports composite team rankings.
It would be the highest the Badgers have ever finished in the rankings, with the 2006 class under Bo Ryan the next highest at No. 20 in the country.
Wisconsin is getting easily one of the most skilled big men in the class and an instant impact type of player. What has been a question mark up front could easily be a strength of this team quickly thanks to Carlson and Crowl’s commitments to the class.
Badgers add 4-star center to 2020 basketball class
What could be a historic recruiting class for the Wisconsin Badgers got another boost on Tuesday as 4-star center Steven Crowl verbally committed to the Badgers.
He went on his official visit this past weekend and apparently it was all he needed to see.
Crowl has since cancelled trips to other contenders like Colorado, Iowa, and Northern Iowa. He also had an offer from the in-state Gophers and was thinking about a visit there.
However, his official visit for the Central Michigan football game weekend was all he needed to pull the trigger on a commitment to Gard and the Badgers.
Crowl joins an already loaded Badgers 2020 class that includes in-state star Johnny Davis and his twin brother Jordan Davis, as well as the No. 25 ranked point guard in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Lorne Bowman.
This class also already has preferred walk-on Carter Gilmore, who chose that offer over other mid-major D1 offers and saw his recruitment pick up considerably in the July evaluation period.
While his name wasn’t a hot one on the recruiting trail, he was a late riser and currently sits as the No. 102 ranked player in the class overall and the No. 17 center in the nation per the 247Sports composite rankings.
The St. Paul, Minn. native is also continuing the pipeline of players coming from the cross-border rival Gopher state. He comes from the same AAU program — Minnesota D1 — that produced both Tyler Wahl and Nate Reuvers.
With Crowl in the fold, Wisconsin has added 12 players from the state of Minnesota in the 247Sports composite era, according to Badger247.
When you take a look at Crowl’s film, what you see is someone that has begun to both physically and mentally mature. He’s got the skill set that UW likes out of their bigs as well, with a nice looking shot from the outside.
However, what you also see on tape is someone that may need to take a year to adjust to the college game and that may be perfectly fine with the coaching staff as they still will have Nate Reuvers and Tyler Wahl to work with up front as starters.
It will be interesting to see how Crowl digests the speed of the college game early on. If he can adjust to that and the physicality, he may indeed find himself in the rotation quickly though.
He is certainly in the mold of what has become the classic Wisconsin big man.
Former Badger Jon Leur traded to Milwaukee Bucks
They say you can always go home, and for one former Wisconsin Badger he’s coming back to a state he called home for four years.
Former Badgers forward Jon Leuer was traded early on Thursday morning from the Detroit Pistons to the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange for Leuer, the Bucks gave up the 30th overall pick in tonight’s NBA Draft and traded away Tony Snell.
Last season, Leuer played in 41 games for the Pistons and made just one start. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his ninth season in the NBA.
Leuer is a very similar player to Snell, but comes at a much more team-friendly salary.
In trading away Snell, the Bucks free up an additional $4 million in salary this year and another $12 million next year.
This could be seen as a way for the Bucks to pony up the big money that Khris Middleton wants from the team in order to stay in Milwaukee.
As for Leuer, he is 17th on the all-time Badgers scoring list with 1,376 points to his name. He also finished his career with 551 rebounds.
Leuer’s final season in Madison was his best statistically, as he helped lead the 2010-11 Badgers team to the Sweet 16. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game that year.
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