Becoming a basketball All-American at the University of Wisconsin? It is a rare feat indeed. Entering this season just five players had ever garnered those honors according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, sophomore forward Ethan Happ became No. 6 after being selected to the AP third-team All-American list. He joins Frank Kaminsky (2015), Alando Tucker (2007) Jordan Taylor (2011), Devin Harris (2004) and Don Rehfeldt (1950).
It got us to thinking about this group as a whole, especially because so many of the names on the list are familiar ones to this generation of Badgers fans. So, let us re-introduce you to some names or flat-out introduce you to others as well.
6. Ethan Happ (2016)
Becoming the sixth AP All-American player in UW basketball history is certainly nothing to sneeze at. However, he is one of just two players on this list to be named to the last of the three teams the AP puts out.
This season seemed like a disappointment for large swaths, but Happ stood out as a star for the vast majority of the year. He ended up averaging 14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Those numbers were tops on the team in every category except points, where Bronson Koenig’s 14.5 points per game average was better.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better all-around post player than Happ this past season. Some would suggest the best is yet to come after just two years in a Badgers uniform, but let’s also remember just how special this season was for Happ.
Not only was he a third-team All-American selection, Happ also picked up first-team All-Big Ten honors as well. We’d take Happ as one of our first selections in any draft thanks to his all-around game (if only he could add free throw shooting to his arsenal this offseason).
5. Jordan Taylor (2011)
What more do you want from a point guard in a Badgers team? Very few point guards were as powerful and team-orientated at the same time as Taylor was in his UW career. In the 2010-11 season, Taylor took the program on his back like a good leader needs to at times.
He finished the year averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game. Even more impressive. Taylor shot a career-best 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and 43.3 percent from the field overall.
Who can forget his memorable 39-point performance in Assembly Hall against the Hoosiers?
Those numbers led Taylor to becoming a second-team AP All-American pick and a Wooden Award (for the best player in the nation) finalist.
Taylor became the first of UW’s All-American honorees to return for another season. It didn’t work out as well for himself personally the next season, but there is no denying the 2010-11 season was one of the most fun individual seasons to watch in recent memory.
4. Devin Harris (2004)
At this point this list is just splitting hairs it seems like. Harris’ junior season in 2004 was one of the best single seasons in Wisconsin Badgers basketball history. Harris put up 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game during the 2003-04 season and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year as a result. His 624 points on the year also put him third on UW’s single season scoring list.
Somehow those numbers were only good enough for second-team AP All-American honors. But, that is water under the bridge at this point. Arguably, no Badgers player has gone on to have a better NBA career in the last 30 years than Harris has had personally.
It didn’t hurt that he was one of the most deadly jump shooters in the college game at the time. He shot an impressive 45.9 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from beyond the arc as well. After three years at UW, Harris left with 1,425 career points and ranks 11th in school history in career points scored, in just three years.
This note makes me personally feel old — as Harris was inducted in to the UW Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.
3. Alando Tucker (2007)
How do you top a season like Harris’ effort in 2003-04? You put on a tape (because those things were still in use back in 2006-07) of Alando Tucker’s senior season in 2006-07.
Tucker did some major work in the 2006-07 season, as he was one of just two players on the team to average in double figures (19.9 points). He also picked up 5.4 rebounds and dished out 2.0 assists per game. So, what makes his season better than Harris’? Well, he does rank second on the single season scoring chart with 716 points and was tops in school history at the time (more on that later on in this list).
Much like Harris and others on this list, Tucker’s numbers were good enough to earn Big Ten Player of the Year and second-team AP All-American honors.
2. Don Rehfeldt (1950)
This name and place may shock some, because Rehfeldt was “just” a third-team All-American pick back in the 1949-50 season. However, that was a criminally underrated selection in our book. It also was a criminally underrated selection by the day, as Rehfeldt earned first-team All-American honors from other organizations outside of the Associated Press.
His play in the 1949-50 season was certainly worth the first-team selection, as he averaged 19.8 points per game. That scoring average led him to be selected the Big Ten (then the Western Conference) MVP in 1950. He was also the second overall pick in the 1950 NBA Draft by the then Baltimore Bullets.
Rehfeldt left the program as its all-time leading scorer (and still ranks 27th in UW’s all-time scoring list) with 1,169 points. Just how important was Rehfeldt to UW basketball history? He was in the first class to be inducted to the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.
While you and I don’t have personal memories of his playing days and the modern game is much different, there’s little doubt that Rehfeldt was one of the most important players in Badgers basketball history.
1. Frank Kaminsky (2015)
Kaminsky feels like the classic Bo Ryan player story. He was a relatively unknown player coming in to college and by the time he was a senior became one of the most dominant players at his position in the country.
It is hard to argue that Kaminsky doesn’t belong at the top spot given his 2015 season. All he did was average 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Kaminsky also shot a career-high 54.7 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from beyond the arc (making a career-best 42 three-pointers).
Oh, and did we mention he was the leader of a team that went to the national championship game? UW’s first since the 1941 season in which it won its lone national championship.
Kaminsky’s season was the best single season scoring output in school history (732) and the 2014-15 season also saw him rank third in rebounds and fifth in rebounds. Hard to top that kind of performance on that kind of team.
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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