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Friday, December 14, 2007

Where are they now? (Part 1)

Seeing how some of the ex-Badgers are doing overseas prompted me to finish looking into how some former Wisconsin high schoolers are faring outside of the Badger State. With few exceptions, most of these players were not really recruited by Wisconsin or Marquette, but landed safely at other Division I universities on basketball scholarships.

You will not see any players on UW-Milwaukee or UW-Green Bay listed because those rosters are usually full of names from around the state. As the two other D-I programs in the state, they are easy to keep track of for those following the Badgers.

Notice the majority of the success stories and more highly sought-after players that I describe are guards. Wisconsin clearly places an emphasis on keeping its big men at home first, little fellas second. Sometimes that comes back to bite you. The Badgers seem to have gotten the best of the big men, but wouldn't having one or two more quality guards be nice? You will find a few on this list -- a list that turned out long enough to be split into a two-part series.

So without further adieu, let's begin way back when with the ...

: : : Class of 2004

Kyle Weaver, G, Washington St. [stats]
The Cinderella story you've all heard about, on a Cinderella team. Weaver is having another solid year and undefeated Washington State is perched in the Top 5. Nice way to close out a career, huh? His shooting percentages are up so far this season, especially from 3-point land. This was Dick Bennett's last (only?) recruiting gem; Tony has turned Weaver into a star. How good would this formerly wiry Beloit Memorial grad have looked next to Tucker and Taylor on the wing last year?

Draelon Burns, G, DePaul [stats]
"Dre" Burns was named Big East Player of the Week after back-to-back 32-point games before stumbling against Kansas last weekend. This senior guard started the year slow, but seems to be back on track to exceed his very good sophomore and junior numbers at DePaul. Burns put up big numbers at Milwaukee Custer, although he spent his last HS season at the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina.

Mike Nelson, G, North Dakota St. [stats]
Another feel-good story, this time from the Badgers' own backyard. Nelson played his prep hoops for Steve Collins at Madison Memorial and was Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball in 2004 despite being overshadowed at times by a few of his highly-touted teammates. Nelson averages about 15 ppg in a high-scoring offense, but has also nearly doubled his per-game rebounding totals of a year ago. While the Bison are hovering around .500 this season, this redshirt junior will always have bragging rights thanks to N.D. State's January 2006 upset of Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Nelson's head coach is former Wisconsin assistant Saul Phillips.

Dave Bliss, C, Georgia [stats]
Wisconsin saw him first-hand earlier this year and he was largely a non-factor. However, Bliss has started nearly every game for the Bulldogs in his four years there, the only exception being the first month or so last year. He was even the valedictorian of his senior class at Wausau West in 2004. What a swell guy. By the way, Georgia's only loss so far was to Bucky.

Jermyl Jackson-Wilson, F, Colorado [stats]
This guy has really bounced around. He came to fame as a smooth, shot-blocking big man for the Milwaukee King powerhouse. He spent a post-graduate year at Fork Union Military Academy in New Mexico. Jackson-Wilson then signed with Ohio State in 2004 and played in a handful of games there as a freshman. He sat out last year upon transferring, but was a bright spot for Colorado on the floor. Now, as a redshirt junior, Jackson-Wilson is struggling to find his offense, but did post a 13-rebound game in the America's Youth Classic tourney hosted by Wisconsin earlier this year. He will continue to block shots, regardless.

Shae McNamara, F, Marist [stats]
Now a senior, McNamara's playing time has been amazingly consistent for three years before seeing a modest uptick in 2007. He's stands a lanky 6'8" tall and was actually a McDonald's All-American nominee during his senior season at Milwaukee Marquette University HS. Though he'll never put up significant numbers, he seems to be a well-rounded, integral part of Marist's program.

Tom Levin, F, Loyola [stats]
Levin started the Oshkosh West pipeline to the Windy City and now enters his final season at Loyola. He was a part-time starter in his first two seasons, but has battled injuries over the last couple of years, grinding his minutes to a near-halt.

: : : Class of 2005

J.R. Blount, G, Loyola [stats]
Walter "J.R." Blount put up historically good numbers for a freshman and sophomore and is continuing that trend this season. Blount it easily pacing the team in scoring with almost 18 points and 2 steals per game. The junior point guard also leads the Ramblers in assists.

In high school, Blount propelled Whitefish Bay Dominican's undefeated romp to the state championship in Division III for what might have been the state's best team overall that year regardless of division. Obviously, Wisconsin-made products will be leaving their mark all over the Loyola record book.

Jacob Baryenbruch, G, Drake [stats]
I don't know much about Baryenbruch except that he is a 6-foot junior from River Valley HS near Spring Green. He is starting to see more playing time in a very good conference (Missouri Valley) but is not producing as of yet.

David DuBois, G, Western Illinois [stats]
Speaking of bouncing around, you are not alone if you lost track of former Madison LaFollette athlete David DuBois. He began his career in the WAC in 2005-06 by leading the Idaho Vandals in rebounding. Not bad for a freshman. Perhaps seeing his opportunity to move upward and onward, he played his sophomore season for the famed Indian Hills Community College before landing at Western Illinois this year.

While the Summit Conference is a step down from the WAC, at least DuBois is close to home. Many of his high school comrades have joined together to make Winona State a D-II powerhouse up north. DuBois is quietly leading the Leathernecks in minutes and rebounding this year and should be very proud of what he's accomplished in 2+ years.

John Rybak, F, Texas State [stats]
Transferred from Akron after two non-productive years and will sit out the 2007-08 season to regain his eligibility. At 6'5", Rybak was a pretty good producer out of West Allis Hale in Milwaukee. He'll be a decent shooter on the wing Texas State if he can get on the floor.

: : :

Look for the 2006 and 2007 classes in part two. And in between, I will be attending my first live Badger game of the season, versus UW-Green Bay.

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