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Monday, May 21, 2007

Tis the Season ... for Ping Pong Balls

Tomorrow night, ESPN will broadcast the 2007 NBA Draft Lottery before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The pathetic Milwaukee Bucks own 156 of the 1,000 ping pong balls, yet are "most likely" to grab the fifth overall pick based on the probabilities of all possible draft orders. This could present a dangerous potential collision between Milwaukee's bad judgment and Florida junior Joakim Noah.

Barring another miracle, however, the Bucks should be in prime position for a forward-type along the lines of Al Horford, Brandan Wright, Corey Brewer or Julian Wright. I think the best player available would be a great approach considering the injury-plagued 2006-07 season. Whatever needs they cannot address through the draft may be able to be solved via free agency. Milwaukee has a number of expiring contracts to play with.

The lottery won't affect Alando Tucker's future destination. He's been slotted as a late-round draft choice in most mock drafts. Tucker has reportedly signed on with BDA Sports Management, home to current NBA stars Carmelo Anthony and Yao Ming. Greg Oden has also signed on with BDA after a merger with Mike Conley Sr.'s MMG Sports earlier this month.

Between the draft lottery and the premiere of National Bingo Night, tiny plastic ball stock is waaa-y up in May.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Changes To The Recruiting List

Respected recruiting guru Van Coleman posted a write-up on CSTV concerning tons of players who participated in the Bill Hensley Memorial tournament last weekend. Among those were two Chicago players I recently removed from Wisconsin's 2008 target list (at right) -- C Michael Dunigan and SG Matthew Humphrey. C Angel Garcia will be the next name to fall off.

Dunigan has been impressive all spring, with all the heavyweight programs jumping on-board in his recruitment as UW goes unmentioned more and more in the discussion. As previously noted, Humphrey does not seem to be a good fit for a Bo Ryan-coached team. Coleman did list Wisconsin when discussing Dunigan's AAU teammate Josh Crittle. Crittle is a pretty high-profile power forward prospect who I had not heard connected to Wisconsin yet. Another new connection in the CSTV article was between the Badgers and Texas combo guard Willie Warren. Again, only heavyweights need apply in Warren's case. even has Warren listed as the top shooting guard of 2008.

Perhaps the apparent move away from the Chicago duo has created more time to scout guys like Crittle. Contrary to my own previous opinions, however, Iowa may be fertile ground again for Wisconsin. Grant Gibbs, out of Jason Bohannon's alma mater (Marion, IA's Linn-Mar HS) is being increasingly mentioned as a priority for '08, and L.A. Pomlee could fill the need for a power forward. The more I think about it, the more I'd like to see a solid big man sign for that class of Badgers.

In other "news", Wisconsin is the first school Coleman listed for sophomore Joseph Bertrand, yet UW is not listed at all for junior Iman Shumpert. Ah, the fickle world of Internet recruiting info ...

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Nick Fruendt of Batavia (IL) committed to Northwestern on Saturday. It was repeatedly reported that Fruendt desired to attend Wisconsin over any other school, for athletic and academic reasons. He must have grown tired of holding out for an offer which might never materialize.

It's good to see Wisconsin holding off, though. After all, we are talking about a scholarship earmarked for 2008. You see and hear some of the national basketball powers offering scholarships to every single top prospect around. Wisconsin itself has several scholarship offers on the table already for its priority targets. But there are limited spots available on any given team, so some players who get stars in their eyes while being courted end up out of luck down the line. A school like Wisconsin could potentially sweep back in on someone whom Bo's staff has been in touch with along the way. It's no fun being a safety net, but I'd sure be able to live with a Top 50 recruit falling into Wisconsin's lap. I can see the Badgers holding back on any additional offers through the entire summer as they wait for the perfect fit ... or Shumpert.

Maybe Fruendt is a guy who will play with a chip on his shoulder against the Badgers in the future. I'm okay with that -- it's Northwestern. We'll just have to wait and see.

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The well-rounded Jamil Wilson appears to be from solid lineage. Wilson's father has been a huge influence in developing this 16-year-old's versatile game. Wilson will resume his assault on the summer hoop circuit this weekend when his Wisconsin Playground Warriors team plays in the Arizona Cactus Classic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On the Stove Top: Recruiting Links

- An interview on with Chicago's Matthew Humphrey. A one-time target of Bo Ryan & Co., it is difficult to see Wisconsin pursuing Humphrey any further. UW is not on his short list and he seems to have a mentality that Bo likes to avoid in recruiting. Granted, I'm basing this off of one quote, but when that quote is ...

"I’m looking for a school that wants me. I want a school that's gonna prepare me best for the next level and get me there as quick as possible. But if I can’t go early I just want the best school for me.”

... you start to wonder. That's a shame, because Humphrey is exactly the type of athlete than the Badgers need on the wing.

- Since is giving away free content this week, I'm going to take advantage. They are hyped up on SF Jamil Wilson (scroll down 2/3), Wisconsin's number one prep player in the Class of 2009, and a surefire Top 50 nationally. Lots of good info on players from all over the Midwest at the Hensley Memorial Run N' Slam tournament. The writer misspelled PG Nate Zastrow's name, a kid who might have to grow a few inches to become a Badger prospect, but is highly regarded in the high school ranks. As for PG Johnnie Lacy, he's a Milwaukee Public Schools fellow, so your guess is as good as mine as far as Wisconsin's future interest.

- Wisconsin will focus much of it's attention in the 2009 recruiting class on Joseph Bertrand of Sterling, Ill. It looks like he's already generating a lot of interest in Big Ten country.

- Another post on the same Illinois Prep Bullseye website included blurbs on a number of 2008 UW targets, although it sounds Michael Dunigan is dropping off the list like Humphrey.

- And finally, you can see the recruiting showdown in the Land of A Thousand Lakes forming already. New "sheriff" Tubby Smith rides into the Twin Cities and makes a pair of talented young forwards his new obsession. Problem for Tubby is that Wisconsin has two recruiting agents already on the inside! The Wisconsin coaching staff is going to go very hard after at least Royce White and probably Rodney Williams, Jr. also. And so will all of Tubby's other neighbors. (Special thanks to a fine member of the BadgerNation bball message board for pointing the article out.)

Hope you are enjoying the recruiting news ... 'cause it ain't stopping.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Recruiting Rankings Updated

The writers over at have been drooling over Jared Berggren this spring, and now have moved him up significantly in their Class of '08 rankings. I'll admit to getting caught up in the recruiting hype sometimes, but at least the guys at Rivals are seeing these kids play, whereas I have only seen clips, pictures and old highlight videos of some of the Badger recruits. So I am willing to be less skeptical of the rankings than some, as long as we all agree they have little bearing on a player's collegiate success.

With that said, Berggren is listed as #57 on the newly released Rivals150. Like Iman Shumpert (#41), Berggren shot way up the charts from #140 based on his AAU circuit play. He is now rated by Rivals as the 10th-best center prospect of '08. He and Jordan Taylor have gotten increased playing time on the Howard Pulley AAU squad with a couple of the other high-profile Panthers (USC-bound PG Angelo Johnson and sophomore Royce White) sitting out the recent Jayhawk Invitational. Both Berggren and Taylor were named first-team all-tournament. Taylor moved himself up to #99 in those same rankings as the junior class' 15th-best point guard.

In Berggren's case, the news is a relief to those, like me, who last fall saw his thin, fragile frame for the first time. It looks like he's started to really fill in quite a bit.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Back, back, back, back, back ...

Pardon my Chris Berman impression, but it looks like this upcoming season will be the last for the 19'9" 3-point line. The NCAA men's basketball rules committee has approved a change to move the 3-point line back exactly one foot, to 20 feet, 9 inches. So starting in 2008-09, treys will be a little harder to sink, pending the approval of one final committee on May 25.

I don't think this will affect the players as much as it might strategy and game planning by the coaches. Most big-time college shooters that reach the NBA continue to be great shooters when they transition to the pro game anyway. If I'm wrong and the "amateurs" have tough time overall shooting the same percentage, that can only benefit a team like Wisconsin, which has not relied very much on 3-point shooting under Bo Ryan. Either way, Jason Bohannon will be finding the bottom of the net from deep for the next three years.

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Speaking of 3-pointers, I cannot go any longer without applauding Michael Finley for the season he is having with San Antonio. He absolutely crushed the Denver Nuggets in the Spurs' close-out win on Wednesday night by nailing 8-of-9 threes and scoring 26 points.
For the series, Finley shot 52.8% on 19-of-36 shooting from behind the arc.

The biggest knock on Finley coming out of Wisconsin was his outside shooting and it's refreshing to see an old dog finally master a new trick. Once Gregg Popovich went back to bringing Manu Ginobili off the bench, Finley has excelled as the starter in a spot-up outside shooting role. He only averaged 9 ppg overall this year, but averaged 13 ppg since March 25. Finley hit on 34 of his 67 3-point attempts in that 14-game span to end the regular season. That meant a lot of Finley highlights on SportsCenter. It's good to have him back. And all he had to do was relax.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Looking "South" For Final 2008 Recruit

As more info comes to light on Wisconsin scoring a verbal commitment from junior guard Robert Wilson, the more Badger fans are feeling pretty good about him. He will be the first Badger baller from Ohio since my middle school days when Stu Jackson landed point guard Darnell Hoskins from Dayton. The amazing part of Wilson's recruiting process is that nobody knew about him until UW offered the scholarship. It just underscores the tight ship that Bo Ryan and his crew run. Or how far away Ohio is.

As Rob Schultz spelled out in The Capital Times today, UW assistant coach Greg Gard has been credited with unearthing (and sticking with) this potential 2008 gem. It points to Wilson's character that he stuck with a school and coaching staff that has shown consistent interest all along. For what it's worth, Gard has also been instrumental in the recruitment of Jared Berggren, as well as Keaton Nankivil. Conversely, Gary Close seemed to be the lead recruiter for this past year's crop of talent (Bohannon, Hughes, and Gavinski). So as Close pounds the pavement nearby, I'm once again left wondering what Howard Moore is working on down in Chicago ...

No worries though. The fact that Wilson spurned Florida for Wisconsin gives us some assurance that the Badgers can indeed hang with the big boys every now and then on the national recruiting scene. So even if 6'6" St. Louis native Scott Suggs has been picking up offers left and right, perhaps he is not out of the picture for 2008's final scholarship.

However, it's not uncommon for Bo to see something he likes more in a player with slightly less hype, as was the case with Wilson. has reported that Wisconsin has offered (subscriber) that final schollie to shooting guard Iman Shumpert of Oak Park, Ill. But these days, every good player can generate a lot of buzz by a nice game on the AAU circuit. In Shumpert's case, he recovered from some injury issues in April to shine in the King James Classic in Akron, Ohio. And now the heat is on.

It's likely that Coach Moore will pull UW's final recruit from Illinois. In addition to the 6'4" Shumpert, Wisconsin is rumored to be very interested in big man Michael Dunigan of Chicago's Farragut Academy, 6'5" guard Matt Humphrey, and wing Nick Fruendt of Batavia. Dunigan and Humphrey both toil on the AAU level for Chicago's MeanStreets team. Humphrey, in fact, was named to the all-tournament team at the Boo Williams Invitational in early April and would be a good "get" considering the Badgers' need to restock with athletes on the perimeter.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wisconsin's Future Taking Shape

With the AAU season in full swing and the recruiting trails ablaze, the Wisconsin Badgers are finally stirring up some action. In the past week, Bo Ryan's staff has extended scholarship offers to two more prep players, including their first offer for the Class of 2010. With this fall's class pretty much set in stone, the cardinal and white have their sights on the 17-and-under set.

Two weeks ago, Bo offered 6'4" guard Robert Wilson the third schollie in the Class of '08. Wilson has verbally committed to UW over some other high-profile schools, and thus tentatively joins a pair of committed Minnesota players in the class -- point guard Jordan Taylor and center Jared Berggren. Taylor and Berggren are currently playing together on the AAU circuit and doing quite well according to reports. Following their team's play in the Nike Boo Williams Invitational, a senior writer had this to say about Berggren in particular:

Wisconsin knows how to find quality big men and build them into effective college players. The Badgers have done it again in 2008 with big man Jared Berggren. The 6-foot-10 center is a good pick up for Bo Ryan and his staff. Berggren is a strong post player that isn't afraid of a couple elbows to the chest. He isn't afraid to hand them out either. He's a tough cookie and paired with Howard Pulley teammate Jordan Taylor, another Wisconsin pledge for the 2008 class, the duo is a nice 1-2 punch already on board for the Badgers.
Taylor (right) is ranked as the class' 20th-best point guard by and led his Benilde-St. Margaret’s team to the AAA state title game this past season as a junior. Physically, he is built similarly to former Duke star Jay Williams, though not as explosive of course. Personally, I'm quite excited. Berggren, rated as the 16th-best center of '08 by (#140 overall) still needs to put on some weight to be considered even a beanpole. But that's why redshirting exists.

Howard Pulley regularly updates their website with detailed info on the various tournaments and scholarship offers flowing in for their top players. The squad also features two of the Twin Cities' finest prospects in the Class of '09 -- forwards Royce White and Rodney Williams, Jr. Tubby Smith has made the pair his top priority for Minnesota's 2009 class, and Iowa State has also offered each player a scholarship. Wisconsin offered a scholarship to White, a 6'7" power player attracting major attention. Williams may not be far behind on Wisconsin's radar.

However, two of the top recruits in the state of Wisconsin for 2009 are also wing forwards, like Williams. We wouldn't want Bo to stretch his staff too thin with a couple of potential blue-chippers in his own backyard. At this point, Racine Horlick's Jamil Wilson is probably the top Badger target in '09. He just lit it up in Akron, OH and led his 16U team to a tourney title at the King James Classic last weekend. While Madison Memorial's Jeronne Maymon is also picking up steam nationwide, rumor on Wisconsin message boards state that Maymon is unlikely to become a Badger, especially with Wilson in the picture.

At the start of the unofficial spring signing period, Wisconsin (as well as Marquette) extended an offer to 6'11" Evan Anderson. Anderson, a freshman this past season at Stanley-Boyd HS, may develop into a legit 7-footer down the road seeing as he recently turned just 15. He will take his 7'5" wingspan to Eau Claire North HS this fall.

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To recap, Wisconsin has strong verbal commitments from a 1, 2 and 5 for '08 to replace Butch, Stiemsma, Flowers and Tanner Bronson. The Badgers will likely add one more player in this class, but again, Bo and Co. are seemingly right on schedule or even ahead of the curve when it comes to garnering commitments for the near future. The expected losses of Krabbenhoft and Landry the following year can be countered with a bumper crop of slashers, shooters and energizers to fill positions 2-4 in '09.

Another look at this fall's class helps to understand why UW is pursuing such players. Bucky will welcome two forwards, Keaton Nankivil (left) and Jon Leuer, as well as wing Tim Jarmusz to the den in 2007. Obviously, the Class of '07 solidifies the Badger front court for the time when current redwoods Butch and Stiemsma take a permanent hike. With such a void on the wing currently, there is still a slight chance UW could give out a fourth scholarship for this class (perhaps guard D.J. Kennedy) instead of waiting until 2008. Such a signing would take away Bronson's senior-year scholarship.

Jarmusz (6'6") is recruit more out of the Dick Bennett-style mold, so it's no surprise that he is not ranked by the two major recruiting services. However, Nankivil and Leuer both were more heavily recruited. Leuer in particular has climbed the charts over the last year. A Leuer highlight video was recently featured on the basketball recruiting front page of (you can access it from Leuer's profile page). It's a typical highlight mix, showcasing dunks, 3-point shooting and his ball handling skills. He looks very fluid for a kid of that size, which is understandable since he was a guard until he shot up seven inches or so in height over the last two years. Leuer's potential has been compared to Steve Novak, formerly of Brown Deer, WI and Marquette. Top 100: Nankivil #88 (#21 PF) | Leuer #89 (#22 PF) Rivals150: Nankivil #85 (#22 PF) | Leuer #75 (#19 PF)

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