Two years ago, the infamous Gregg Doyel previewed the Wisconsin-Marquette game with a column detailing how successful the two programs had been in keeping state prospects at home. One school or the other had snagged every consensus Top 100 recruit in Wisconsin since 2000. In the two subsequent classes, Wisconsin signed two out of three such recruits while one fled the state (Jerry Smith).
The perception here is that more players than ever are being offered scholarships to D-I schools. More top-flight talent is sprinkled in the growing pool of middle-tier prospects, but no more D-I programs are springing up, which means more Wisconsin athletes find their niche outside of their home state. Based on who I was able to track down, the perception appears correct.
We started with players from the 2004 and 2005 classes. Only the earliest results are in for the two most recent harvests, but let's look at what they've yielded thus far ...
Jerry Smith, G, Louisville [stats]
This one hurts. As mentioned on Friday, Bo Ryan has made in-state bigs a priority. So with J.P. Gavinski wrapped up in red 'n white since 10th grade, only two spots remained for three fantastic guards in last year's incoming class. Smith, a blue-chip recruit out of Wauwatosa East, probably would have chosen Louisville anyway, but when J-Bo and Hughes verballed, the fat lady sang on Smith coming to Madison.
Smith logged an impressive 20 min/g in his rookie year, but now starts and is playing 30 min/g as a sophomore. He was hardly heard from in a recent loss to Dayton, however. Known as a powerful, athletic guard in HS, Smith has become a reknowned sniper from behind the 3-point arc.
Steve Gruber, G, Brown [stats]
Gruber is a sophomore from Whitefish Bay who must be getting an excellent education in the Ivy League. He is not playing much basketball from the looks of it.
Mitchell Carter, C, South Carolina [stats]
Sophomore Mitchell Carter never was a star at Milwaukee King, but always a college prospect due to his enormous size. Unfortunately size has not translated into playing time yet at South Carolina for the 6'10", 260 lb. wide body. Despite rarely seeing the floor now, schools like Iowa, Notre Dame and Marquette offered Carter a scholarship.
Andy Polka, F, Loyola [stats]
Polka teamed with Tim Jarmusz to win a state title for Oshkosh West two season ago and is now progressing nicely in his second year at Loyola. The Ramblers play a decent non-conference schedule, but Polka was a borderline major conference prospect who played a smart, hard-nosed brand of basketball. He led the team in rebounding in 2006-07, becoming only the second freshman in Loyola history to do so. Polka will be a four-year starter.
Adam Koch, F, Northern Iowa [stats]
This Ashwaubenon product has a bright future with the Panthers after playing in every game last year as a freshman. Koch is averaging around 8+8 this season in 26 min/g. He was a first-team all-state pick last season on a one-loss state tournament team, so he is the real deal. Northern Iowa run a fun system as well.
: : : Class of 2007
Diante Garrett, G, Iowa St. [stats]
Freshman from Milwaukee Vincent has the body and quickness of Devin Harris. I'm disappointed he is not suiting up in Badger Red, despite his 0-for-12 FG shooting the last three games. Still needs work on his outside shot. Garrett started versus Minnesota and more often than not is the first player off the bench for the Cyclones.
Matt Dorlack, C, Eastern Illinois [stats]
Standing tall at 6'11", Dorlack is easily EIU's tallest player. Apparently he had started a few games this season before missing time recently with a knee injury. Best of luck on a quick recovery to this freshman from New Berlin Eisenhower.
Will Hudson, F, Oakland [stats]
Middleton's Will Hudson was the only area player to match Keaton Nankivil's brawn last season. Despite struggling in those Big 8 conference tilts, the WBCA named Hudson first-team all-state as a high school senior. He is the protoypical size for a D-I power forward at 6'9" and started two games so far this year. His statistics say he's still learning the college game, but you cannot ignore 68% FG shooting!
Andrew Zimmerman, F, Santa Clara [stats]
Zimmerman was a pretty well-regarded F/C recruit out of Oostburg this past year. His playing time has recently skyrocketed for the Broncos, including his best outing of his career this week against Pacific in which he nearly notched a double-double. If he can keep improving the way he has been, he'll be a tough player in the West Coast Conference by the time he's done.
Conor Smith, F, Richmond
I believe Smith is redshirting as a freshman this season for the Spiders, but played his high school ball at Waukesha Catholic Memorial. He mans the small forward spot, but like most of these 6'7" to 6'10" guys, he needs to add weight and strength.
James Haarsma, F, Army
Haarsma led Racine St. Catherine's to a D-III title last year and opted for the armed services. You will likely see him on the Army basketball team after a year of prep school. (4/22 - ed: Haarsma will attend Evansville on a basketball scholarship)
: : : Other players with a Madison/Big Ten connection : : :
Jerard Ajami, G Northern Michigan - Unbeknownst to me, Northern Michigan is not a D-I school but Ajami has had some pretty good games so far this year for the team. And by pretty good, I mean very good. I'm a little surprised, but he is straight out of the Madison Memorial factory.
Mickey Perry, G, Dayton - Perry left the Wisconsin program last season and will be eligible to play in Dayton's game on December 19th. I think he'll prove his worth there if he can stay on top of his studies.
Tyler Smith, F, Tennessee - Arguably Iowa's most talented player as a frosh last season, Smith moved closer to home to be with an ailing family member and happened to be welcomed with open arms by Bruce Pearl and the elite Volunteers. He is a big-time player now on a big-time stage. He is third on the team in scoring right now and will be needed even more now that Duke Crews is out with a heart condition.
: : :
In addition, Indian Hills C.C. has three players from Wisconsin high schools on its roster this season, including Dwight Buycks. Madison Memorial's Dan Brown and Milwaukee Washington's Chris Vines are also listed as freshmen on the team.
Buycks, a tweener guard, had originally committed to Bradley but either couldn't qualify or had other off-court issues that kept him from attending. He was an unstoppable scorer for a good Milwaukee Bay View team last season and is putting up 20-point games on the JUCO circuit as well. Look for Buycks to land at a D-I school as early as next season. Hopefully. It's a shame to see so many of the talented Milwaukee city conference players held back by academics and off-court issues. There is really a lot of misdirected talent in that public school system.