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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kevin Durant: One Year Later

The Worldwide Leader has reported that Kevin Durant will be named the NBA's Rookie of the Year when the award is officially announced Thursday. Last year at this time, Durant was a hot topic in college basketball/NBA Draft circles. Many made comparisons between Durant and previous phenoms who had entered the league at a similarly young age, with a similar build or a similar playing style. That prompted a column here analyzing those comparisons, which actually got picked up by Deadspin. Luckily, Durant came through this year and I don't look like an idiot.

The 19-20 ppg projection was right on (Durant averaged 20.3), as was the prediction that he would play heavy minutes (34.6). Durant certainly became the face of the Seattle franchise, starting all 80 of the games in which he played. The rook even surprised me by showing glimpses of leadership down the stretch as the clear go-to player for the Sonics. However, Durant is only listed at 6'9" and 215 lbs. these days, so he definitely did not put on any weight (though I'm sure Texas fudged his measurables slightly while a Longhorn). His slight frame and perimeter focus kept him from being much of a rebounder (4.4). Worst of all, the Sonics slipped from a 31-51 record to 20-62 and leaving town in the season after Seattle said goodbye to both Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

Since last year, has switched from tracking "per-40 minute" stats to "per-36 minute" stats, so I'll use those to recap how Durant stacks up with his predecessors:

Per 36 Statistics - Rookie Season


Team (Yr)







Kevin Garnett

MIN (95-96)







Tracy McGrady

TOR (97-98)







Shawn Marion

PHX (99-00)







Carmelo Anthony

DEN (03-04)







Kevin Durant*

SEA (07-08)







*Only Durant won Rookie of the Year Award

A host of talented freshmen will jump to the NBA this summer, but it is unlikely that any can equal the impact of Durant. Both Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley--the two most likely candidates--play positions that have a steeper learning curve in the pros than a wing player like Durant faces. Though Beasley nearly matched Durant's output as a Big XII frosh, he can be slowed by a host of bigger bodies and tough defense, as Wisconsin proved in the second half of Kansas State's NCAA tournament exit. The NBA is full of bigger bodies. Plus, unless he's matured significantly in the last two years, I doubt Beasley is as mentally prepared as Durant to work for it.

It would be hard to argue with Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, who writes his week that next year's crop of freshmen in college basketball will be a letdown. Still, I think Greg Monroe of Georgetown might surprise DeCourcy. Monroe is not quite Beasley and he's sure no Kevin Garnett. But who is? Garnett was a supernova who ushered in a new era for the NBA, let alone Chicago high school basketball.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vander Blue Verbals Early

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported late last night that Vander Blue became the first player to verbally commit to Bo Ryan's Badgers for the 2010-11 season. Most had expected Evan Anderson to commit first, but the rumors that Blue would make his choice quickly this spring turned out to be true.

Marquette and Indiana were reported to be the other offers recently extended to the 6'3" guard. Blue was named to the WIAA All-Tournament team as Madison Memorial marched to the D1 title game and will have one more year to team with Jeronne Maymon on another stacked squad before the Spartans truly become Blue's team in 2009. That is probably when his value will truly be judged. Like a number of other Badgers of recent vintage, Blue will now be monitored mercilessly throughout his final two high school seasons. Two other early commitments, Mike Flowers and Greg Stiemsma, both battled injuries after committing to the program and were not as impressive in their final campaigns as you would hope. I hope Blue has better luck.

Garnering commitments so early on a consistent basis is a testament to UW's good reputation as both an academic institution and a perennial basketball powerhouse. It's also a great move for the young men. They no longer have to endure the hounding of college coaches and hangers-on whispering in their ears. A free education is pretty swell, too.

As for Blue, he continued to see his stock rise after leading his team to a 3-1 record at the King James Shooting Stars tournament this past weekend. If Blue can develop his ball handling skills in the near future, he could develop into the point guard that Wisconsin needs in that recruiting class. He already possesses very good athleticism and good offensive instincts, though he needs to become more consistent. Blue said he plans to skip some of the ensuing tournaments this summer to focus on the books.

**Video of NBC15's interview with Blue regarding the announcement**

Prospect Profile: Vander Blue

Vander Blue, G
6'3" :: 180 lbs.
Class of 2010
Madison (WI) Memorial HS [team site]
AAU: Illinois Warriors / Madison Spartans

Scout: 4 Stars * * * * (#6 SG/#34 overall)
Previous: 3 Stars (PG) > 4 Stars (#14 SG/#47 overall > #4/#27)
Rivals: 5 Stars * * * * * (#6 PG/#24 overall)
Previous: NR > 4 Stars (#7 PG/#29 overall > #7/#39 >#7/#26 > #7/#31) > 5 Stars (#6/#22)
ESPN/Scouts, Inc. grade: 95 (#7 SG/#31 overall)
Previous: 68 (#58 SG) > 65 (#63) > 92 (#26) > 96 (#16 > #17 SG/#46 overall > #10/#34)

2010 First Team All-State (AP)
2010 First Team All-State (Dic. 1, WBCA)
2009 First Team All-State (AP)
2009 First Team All-State (Div. 1, WBCA)
2009 WIAA State Tournament MVP (AP)

Recent Press
4/26: Recruit wrapup: Vander Blue - JSOnline
10/14: Vander Blue set to take official visits to Marquette and Wisconsin -
8/30: Vander Blue narrows list to 5 - NY2LA Sports
5/13: Blue's academic issues create divide with UW - Cap Times
5/12: Blue backs off commitment to UW -
5/4: Top '10 bigs Sullinger, Smith faceoff - ESPN/Scouts, Inc.
3/20: Blue, Memorial slam Germantown - WiSJ
1/6: Blue's final flurry rallies Madison Memorial past Purple Knights - WiSJ

The Verbal
Blue ditches UW for MU - JSOnline (10/18/09)
Vander Blue commits to Marquette - Sports Bubbler (10/18/09)
Blue goes with heart and commits to Marquette - (10/18/09)
Vander not Blue about decision - (4/29/08)
Vander Blue commits to Wisconsin - JSOnline (4/28/08)
Memorial's Blue commits to Badgers - Cap Times (4/29/08)
Memorial's Blue commits for 2010-11 - WiSJ (4/29/08)
Vander Blue says yes to Badgers' scholarship offer - (4/29/08)

The Hype
MDC Top 2010 performers - Rivals (5/29/08)
Best Backcourt in the Country? - (5/28/08)
The 16-U Illinois Warriors knock off the Alabama Challenge - (5/27/08)
Vander Blue Q&A - JSOnline (4/30/08)
More on basketball recruit Vander Blue - JSOnline (4/29/08)
Marquette-bound Maymon thrives at Timberwolves Shootout - Scouts Inc. (1/2/09)
Memorial moves on - WiSJ (2/29/08)
Clear skies for Memorial's Blue - WiSJ (1/25/08)
Do you think Vander Blue is the best freshman in the state - WSN message board (2007)

Interview: Vander Blue Commits to Marquette (10/18/09) -
Highlights: Will Vander leave UW Blue? (5/13/09) -
Game: Memorial 56, Racine Horlick 41 @ Kohl Center (3/21/09) -
Highlights: State Tournament vs. Germantown -

Game: Memorial 56, Madison East 45 @ Memorial HS (2/26/09) - YouTube
Interview: Buzzed Into Madison (East Pre-Game) - WBUW/YouTube
Game: Memorial 57, Verona 34 @ Memorial HS (1/23/09) - YouTube
Interview: Verbal Commitment (4/29/08) -
Game: Memorial 78, Minnetonka 67 @ Verona HS (1/26/08) - YouTube

Junior: 2008-09 (Memorial) - Wisconsin State Journal
Sophomore: 2007-08 (Memorial) -


Monday, April 28, 2008

Evan Anderson Working To Solidify His Status

These days, the "summer" basketball circuit heats up right after the high school season is over. Since Wisconsin has tied most of its scholarships up already, most of the coaching staff's interest in AAU tournaments will move to the younger players, with no secret that Eau Claire North's Evan Anderson is a top priority.

It's already been a week since Real Deal on the Hill tournament concluded at the University of Arkansas, but recruiting websites are still pulling out the names of various prep hoopsters to tout. Anderson got some love from, who proclaimed that he "cemented himself as an elite level player" in the Class of 2010. If you've seen Anderson play, there's nothing surprising here--Anderson can block shots and finish at the rack. It is exciting to hear that he continues to do so against the best competition in the country. His list of suitors is a "Who's Who" of collegiate elite.

Badger fans should be happy that UW is the clubhouse leader to sign Anderson, if for no other reason than to erase memories of Brian Butch struggling with bunnies.

Wisconsin has apparently been keeping tabs on another 2010 prospect, this one in Ohio State's own backyard. J.D. Weatherspoon is a very athletic forward out of Columbus, OH, who is starting to show some versatility.

Here is what Rivals had to say about Weatherspoon after the King James Shooting Stars Classic event:

"Anchoring the other side of the blocks was bouncy 6-foot-7 forward J.D. Weatherspoon. He was one of the more intriguing players in the 16 and under division. Known primarily as a pure athlete in local circles, Weatherspoon showed more than just being a play above the rim guy. He hit three three-pointers as a pop out post man. He's super intriguing and it's easy to see why West Virginia, Miami, Akron (offer), James Madison (offer), Wisconsin and Xavier are involved early."
The same author also reported that Weatherspoon fought off foul trouble to score 11 points as his AAU team won the 16U division title at the tourney. Speaking of Ohio, the article also made it clear that Rob Wilson's teammate, Carl "Tay" Jones, is finally starting to blow up nationally after leading Garfield Heights in scoring this season. In attempting to dig up info on Wilson this past season, Jones' name was always present in the headlines. Apparently Michigan is one program showing increased interest.

Last week, the same source was on top of Jeronne Maymon and Mike Bruesewitz as tournament "surprises." I have only heard good things about Maymon so far this spring, who now plays with the Madison Gators AAU team rather than the Madison Spartans club that Vander Blue plays for. It's only a matter of time before more offers come rolling in for Maymon ... probably just as soon as the magic ACT/SAT/GPA numbers get high enough.

And then on the other hand, there are also examples of why all these recruiting reports cannot be trusted. Another Rivals article mentions Chicago point guard Darius Smith and says he has heard from Wisconsin, among others. Since I have been following recruiting much more regularly with the launch of Hoops Marinara, my estimated guess is that Smith heard from Wisconsin over a year ago. I've kept an eye out for Smith's name since then and he hasn't been connected to the Badgers since then.

Hey, if continuing to name-drop Wisconsin helps the kid land a solid gig, I am all for it. In fact, I almost get a warm, fuzzy, proud-parent feeling that UW's program has reached that status. As if my loyal cheers have had anything to do with it ...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

WIAA's Annual Meeting Raises Concerns

Executive director Doug Chickering warned WIAA delegates Wednesday about the trend toward elite training programs that could sap the competitive nature out of the high school sports scene. Chickering cited a letter from the U.S. Soccer Academy that actually chided club teams for allowing their players to participate in interscholastic athletics. So, could prep hoops be next?

Countless man-hours have been wasted calling out the AAU circuit for the downfall of modern civilization. But when it comes to basketball, AAU ball may only be the tip of the iceberg. Now that the NBA has set it's sights on revamping amateur basketball alongside the NCAA, high school basketball as we now it could eventually be headed for a ride into the sunset. Camps like the Nike Skills Academy have been around for a few years now and just recently, training programs like Adidas Nations have successfully pulled elite players away from the AAU scene for the summer in the hopes of grooming the kids for international play.

While power brokers like David Stern and USA basketball have in mind globalization and a return to the gold medal standard, high school sports administrators seem to be concerned about the mediocre majority being left behind. However, I think there is a gap in logic there. People like Chickering say they are truly concerned about the common youth athlete, but this is about revenue. Keep all your premier young athletes, and organizations like the WIAA guarantee themselves record-breaking crowds and gate receipts each new year at arenas across the land. But think about it: Would fever-pitched fanaticism at state tournaments evaporate because two or three (10? 20?) of the top high school basketball players in Wisconsin decided on a route similar to junior league hockey? Possibly, but unlikely.

If the truly elite athletes started disappearing off to who-knows-where like little gymnasts of the new millennium, it would seem to me that they would leave behind a more level playing field. Not to mention more playing time for lil' John Q. Public Jr. Sure, missing out on the next LeBron playing high school hoops would deprive the fans, but it is not going to devastate the other kids still on the court. In fact, without a transcendent Greg Oden (or Sam Okey) steamrolling through the state tournament, wouldn't more teams have a chance at that elusive state title? What's not to like about that, Doug?

In other news, Chickering also said that the number of public school students in the state's open enrollment program is now equal to the entire private school population. The perception of private school recruiting has certainly been a hot topic in the last decade; maybe that argument is going the way of the buffalo also.

: : :

SLAM Magazine noted that Mike Bruesewitz "made an impression" during the recent Real Deal on the Hill AAU tournament. Author Aggrey Sam even called Bruiser "athletic" so, ya know ... no more questioning Bruiser's street cred.

: : :

Absolutely great play by Carl Landry at the end of the Rockets-Jazz game Thursday night.* Michael Flowers-esque actually -- track down the replay (ed: Got it!) and don't miss the save to his teammate off of the blocked shot. It's about time Houston gave that guy some playoff minutes.

*I hate that rule that let's NBA teams advance the ball to half court on a timeout. It sacrifices some of the game's integrity if you ask me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

All Eyes On The Pros

Scott Skiles was hired as the new coach of the Milwaukee Bucks today. This will be the team's fifth different head coach in seven years. I would have preferred Rick Carlisle, as Milwaukee's problems seem to be more than what a new voice or attitude can cure.

As bad as the Bucks were this season (26-56), their most aggregious offense may have been turning Wisconsin residents away from the NBA in what might be one of it's most memorable seasons in the past 20 years.

Though the Wisconsin Badgers welcomed basketball fans with open arms and another 30-win campaign, the NBA got the cold shoulder from most people known formerly as Bucks fans. Which is a shame since the 2007-08 season will be remembered as one that saw the revitalization (Lakers, Hawks) and resurrection (Celtics) of historic franchises, the tightest playoff race ever in a ridiculously stacked Western Conference and one of the best slam dunk contests of all time.

Milwaukee assumed an unenviable position as an afterthought in the despicable Eastern Conference. At least Miami managed to stay relevant just because the Heat became so terrible. Even though blockbuster preseason personnel moves favored the East (Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston; Rashard Lewis signing with Orlando), the midseason "arms race" brought more all-star veterans (Shaq, Jason Kidd, Pau Gasol) to contenders in the West.

Meanwhile, the league's talent level might be as high as ever. The rash of early entrants in the last ten years has translated into post-Jordan superstars that have reached their potential at younger ages (Kobe, Duncan, Garnett, Iverson, McGrady, Pierce, Nowitzki) and are still playing well enough to compete with even younger powerhouses like LeBron, Melo, Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire and Brandon Roy.

Each of those rising young stars was selected among the top ten picks of the NBA Draft. If all the ping pong balls bounce as the odds say they will, the Bucks will hold the seventh overall pick in this year's talent-rich draft on June 26. Right now, both and have slotted that pick to be Eric Gordon, despite not taking the individual team needs into account. Chad Ford takes the teams into account more for ESPN's Draft Lottery Simulator. In my 50 trial runs, Gordon was the pick 60% of the time, followed by Russell Westbrook, who came through 10 times. Sixty-eight percent of the time, Milwaukee kept the predicted 7th pick, slipping to the 8th slot on 22% of the trials.

As a bandwagon Bucks fan, I would not touch Gordon with a 10-foot pole. Gordon's athleticism probably allows for an added element Michael Redd lacks: driving to basket with authority. However, I sense you would get the very same disdain for defensive commitment currently plaguing Redd and possibly even more selfish tendencies on the court. Adding Gordon would certainly open wide the doors to trading Redd, but how does it actually improve the team?

Unless Milwaukee struck gold and nabbed Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose with one of the first two picks (happened three times in simulation), I don't see any lottery-caliber players with a defensive calling. Robin Lopez fits the bill for a big man, but won't be considered until the late first or early second round. I think one of the Kansas Jayhawks--Brandon Rush or Darrell Arthur--would be intriguing, but again, not with a top ten pick. At least Westbrook, who excels in the transition game, has a couple years of experience Ben Howland's system at UCLA. Milwaukee has not shown too much of an interest in grabbing tough, defensive-minded players with their top picks recently, as you can see in last year's pick of Yi Jianlian over Corey Brewer. Hopefully that changes with the new regime.

The best teams do eventually take on the collective persona of their head coach, though that observation holds most true at lower levels of competition (high school or college) where more teaching and learning takes place. The problem with the Bucks is that they are not one of the best teams in talent or in performance and they do not seem to have players who will adopt a new mindset in order to improve.

Thus, no matter how tough Scott Skiles is, I don't think a transformation can take place without new players ... ones who are either naturally inclined to play defense or at the very least have the potential and desire to improve in that area.

Skiles is not a bad coach. He and Rick Carlisle were clearly the top two available candidates (You couldn't catch me and a 10-ft. pole anywhere near Larry Brown. The Bucks have no need for a coaching vagabond, seeing as they are nowhere near being a very good team ready to become great). Like Carlisle, Skiles caught a worse rap than he deserved in his last stop despite being a proven winner. But I hope that Milwaukee has not bypassed the better coach (Carlisle) because they bought into the mirage that a "tougher" coach can transform a pack of laizzezfaire athletes into something they are not.

The potential caveat here is the relationship between new GM John Hammond and Carlisle. It's possible that Carlisle politely made it clear to Hammond right away that he was not interested in Milwaukee, in which case Hammond correctly moved along in his search. Though more unlikely, maybe Hammond truly believes Skiles is a better fit for the Bucks because of his passion, a thought process which I would simply always second-guess.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

As One Era Begins, Another Era Closes

Wednesday officially signalled Ryan Evans' acceptance into the Wisconsin basketball family with a signed Letter of Intent, completing a diverse freshman class for next season. The Badgers will bring in five new players next fall without a single native Wisconsinite among them. Evans' uncle Dave, a former All-American wrestler at UW, might actually make Ryan the closest thing to home-grown talent that the staff has signed for 2008.

For the third year in a row, none of the incoming scholarship players will be from Milwaukee. How long will that continue now that the legendary Tom Diener has resigned from his post at Milwaukee Vincent?

If there is a scarcity of college-ready talent in the city, it is not Diener's fault. In his 15 years as head coach at Vincent, Diener sent a multitude of very skilled players off to various Division I college basketball programs. In fact, Wisconsin's last two scholarship players out of Milwaukee--Marcus Landry and Boo Wade--both played under Diener for powerhouse Vincent squads. Ray Nixon also started his career at Vincent. The coach was a pretty solid player himself at UW-Green Bay.

As Mark Miller notes, Diener's Vikings dominated the Milwaukee City Conference in recent years, not to mention winning the five state championships. Diener won more gold balls than any other Division 1 coach in WIAA history via a three-peat (1996-98) and additional back-to-back titles (2000-01), plus won two silver runner-up trophies (2005 & 2007).

Diener was impressive in molding the talent around him into winners through defensive intensity. In a lot of ways, Diener's top players were ideal Badgers, provided they could make the grades and stay out of trouble.

With scholarships accounted for in 2009 and offers already extended to other in 2010, it may be awhile before another Badger emerges from the state's largest city. It's too early to tell, but 2001 PG Larry Bradley from Vincent appears to be the only one out there. Perhaps the assistant who scours the Milwaukee area for Bo can take some much-needed vacation time.

We know conclusively that Howard Moore is hard at work all over the country. After Ryan Evans signed his LOI, Moore was finally able to comment on his third Badger recruiting success. Moore revealed some interesting comparisons, both physical and social, regarding Evans. Needless to say, Moore is excited about the Ryan Evans era.

I bet Evans appeared much different on Moore's highlight reel than he did on the game film I downloaded the other night. I felt pretty stupid that it took me almost the entire game to realize it was a game from Evans' junior season. That would seem to partially explain his slow defensive footwork and lack of aggression on the glass despite being one of the tallest players on the court. It is not surprising that it might take more than a year to adjust to growing six inches all of a sudden. In the clips I have seen elsewhere, Evans does look noticeably bigger nowadays.

I'm sure Diener would have loved coaching Evans this year. He could have gone out with another gold ball.

: : :

- Brian Butch plays too soft for pro ball. Duh ... but hearing it from a French dude?! Ouch.
- Another duh: Bucks fire "the other" Coach K
- Marquette keeps Mbakwe and replaces a star recruit with another JUCO

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The People's Choice

A poll on asking who was Wisconsin's most valuable player this season has Michael Flowers comfortably in the lead with 46% of the vote, followed somewhat surprisingly by Joe Krabbenhoft (19%), Brian Butch (16%) and Jason Bohannon (11%).

Flowers got my vote as Wisconsin's MVP as well. Lacking guard depth this season, Flowers logged a team-high 1,139 minutes and he made every one count. Despite a few statistical blemishes on his defensive record (Manny Harris at Kohl Center, Drew Neitzel in the Big Ten Tournament and the infamous Stephen Curry), Flowers delivered on high expectations defensively. He also led the team in assists for the second straight year.

Delivering the unexpected was what made Flowers so special. The senior's remarkable improvement on 3-pointers was vital to Wisconsin's success. After shooting 27-of-86 (31.4%) from deep last season, Flowers proved to be the best 3-point shooter among UW regulars this year, hitting on 49-of-119 (41.2%) attempts, including a phenomenal 44% in Big Ten play.

Some would argue that even the unexpected became expected of Flowers. A team as steady as the Badgers will not be remembered for very many glamorous plays, but this Madison LaFollette grad was behind most of them: the game-winning sequence at Texas; raining treys in the first-half at Indiana; the steal and score to beat Michigan State. When everyone was waiting to see who would step up, Flowers usually did. And that is why he was the most valuable Badger in 2007-08.

Brian Butch, Jonte Flowers attend Portsmouth

Fellow senior Brian Butch joined Mike's brother Jonte Flowers this past week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a sort of pre-draft prep camp. Both players will need to do a lot of work over the next few months to convince an NBA team to take a shot on either of them.

Over the course of three games, Butch played fairly well, although he did not necessarily stand out from his teammates. He continued to shoot the ball very well from behind the arc (43%), though he was nearly incapable of getting to the free throw line. Butch averaged 14 pts, 7.3 rebs, 2.7 assts, 1.7 stls & 1 block as his team posted one win and two losses. Flowers' team also went 1-2 and his stats were similar (13 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3 apg & spg) to Butch's.

Even without Butch, Michael Flowers or Greg Stiemsma next season, the Sporting News has listed Wisconsin as a possible No. 1 seed in next year's NCAA Tournament. As TSN notes, the Bo Ryan has plenty of returning talent at his command, though you would be hard-pressed to find the Badgers in the top ten of anyone's early rankings. However, each list seems to be giving UW respect despite its personnel losses.

: : :

Man, kids can be annoying can't they? I watched a video posted to Wisconsin's official website a few weeks back that shows the team practicing in Omaha for the tournament. It is pretty boring until the very end when the players are shown acquiescing to the dozens of children screaming for their favorite Badger to sign something. Some kids don't even know the players' names (some kid yells, "Hey, 45!" at Krabbenhoft). Trevon Hughes is ever the ladies man ... and autographs a girl's forehead!

: : :

The demand for Milwaukee Bucks autographs might be at an all-time low, but the team appears to have taken a step in the right direction by luring John Hammond away from Detroit to be its new general manager. Hammond has spent the past six years as the vice president of basketball operations for the Pistons, who are closest thing to NBA royalty you'll find in the Eastern Conference these days. The connection between Hammond and former NBA Coach of the Year Rick Carlisle bodes well for the Milwaukee's future, unless Chicago snaps him up sooner.

So at least there is something to be optimistic about in Milwaukee, now that the Buzz Williams hiring at Marquette is off to a great start.

Wisconsin Basketball Roster Origins Map

In a previous post I took up the task of mapping the states of origin for all the scholarship players currently on the Badger roster. The maps are a nice, quick way to view the composition of the team and I hope to keep up with a map for each new season (and maybe even previous ones).

Google Maps, however, gives you the ability to create interactive maps that are far more fluid and detailed. So I present to you the Wisconsin Basketball Roster origins map:

View Larger Map

Either a permanent link to the map or a smaller, embedded version of the map will be available in the sidebar in the recruiting section from now on, although I haven't decided which will work better yet (the embedded map may cause longer page-loading times). If you have suggestions regarding any of the recent maps, don't hesitate to add it via the Comments.

: : :

Removed the following prospects from the recruiting sidebar:
: : : Class of 2008
SF Isiah Nunn, Moline IL
F L.A. Pomlee, Davenport IA
: : : Class of 2009
SG Jacob Jenkins, Louisville KY
PG Chris Colvin, Chicago IL
PG Nick Russell, Arlington TX
F Jeronne Maymon, Madison WI
PG Johnnie Lacy, Milwaukee WI
PG Darius Smith, Chicago IL

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Final Four: Mapping The Rosters

A classic championship game between Kansas and Memphis brought the 2007-08 season to a close in proper fashion last night. The Jayhawks' 75-68 win came in the seventh overtime game in NCAA championship game history. [box score]

When you look back at this tournament a few years from now, Wisconsin's exit will not appear as poor as it seemed at the time. When Davidson hung with the eventual national champion until the final shot, the whole Midwest Region got a boost. If you can't win, you hope the team that beats you was the best in the country. In UW's case, this was close enough. From one angle, you could make an argument--albeit a shaky one--that Wisconsin lost to the second-best team in the tournament this year.

In days leading up to the title game, I started thinking back to a recent New York Times piece on the composition of Wisconsin's roster (thanks to Jon Linder for pointing it out). The map got me thinking both about the direction UW's program is headed and also about what it takes to build a truly elite, NCAA Championship-level squad these days.

Wisconsin has concentrated traditionally on snagging the best players from the state and filling in needed pieces from its midwestern neighbors. Bo Ryan has placed a premium on finding players who will best fit his swing offense and embrace the team concept. It's easy to fill a roster with that kind of players when your legendary head coach has inspired half of the high school coaches in the state to run his system.

I have constructed some player origin maps to show how this type of roster-building strategy appears spatially. Almost every program is going to fill extra roster spots with walk-ons from around the state, so I concentrated on mapping the scholarship athletes. Though we have been able to cherry-pick some talent from Minnesota lately, the 2007-08 roster was still heavily local:

Now look at Monday night's title game match-up. See where Kansas and Memphis are pulling players from? All over. Compare these maps and apparent strategies with Wisconsin's more regional map:

Both school's rosters featured scholarship players from 10 different states this season. Kansas has natural ties to the heartland, but nearly every corner of the country is represented. Memphis' turf seems restricted only to anything east of the Mississippi River. These are two of the nation's premier programs which can basically pick and choose the recruits they want. Similarly, top-flight prospects desire to play for these schools, no matter where they grew up.

The question is, will Bo Ryan change his recruiting. Does he agree with the pessimists that decry a lack of athleticism on his team and feel the need to look outside Wisconsin's borders to find it? More likely is that (1)the recent classes of high school seniors in Wisconsin have been less talented than usual and (2)the Badgers continue to raise their profile nationally in the minds of prep hoop stars.

This fall, five new freshmen will join the Badgers, none of which will be from Wisconsin. The departing senior class this spring consists of four in-state contributors (3 scholarship, 1 walk-on). In just one year, Wisconsin has added three new states to it's recruiting footprint* to up the total to eight. As I mentioned before, this is probably more of a drastic blip than an official trend. If the team keeps winning 30 games a year, though, the opportunities to pick and choose become even greater and more frequent.

*This map assumes 2008 recruit Ryan Evans will occupy Kevin Gullikson's 2008-09 scholarship.

Round 5 (& 6) data
With all the Big Ten teams long-gone and no other 3-seeds left to compare to Wisconsin's run, there is nothing left to track but my pathetic bracket. When North Carolina and UCLA were both eliminated at the Final Four, the debacle was complete.

My picks: 37/63 (58.7%) Round 5 (& 6): 0-3

Monday, April 7, 2008

Badgers Add To '08 Class: Ryan Evans

Rumor became reality tonight as Ryan Evans officially announced that he will become a Wisconsin Badger. Evans, a 6'6" wing out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, AZ, is the fifth player in the UW's incoming 2008 recruiting class.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Evans was chomping at the bit to commit to Bo Ryan's team. He was finally rewarded with a full scholarship, according to Evans is reportedly a bit raw offensively, but part of that can be attributed to his rapid growth spurt over the past two years.

According to, Evans averaged over 18 ppg & 7 rpg to lead Hamilton in both categories. The Huskies compiled a 21-11 record this past season, bowing to Phoenix St. Mary's in the AIA's Class 5A-Division 1 semifinals.

Allotting the last open schollie to Evans means a lot of talented players closer to home will not become Badgers. The complaints about not getting Jamil Wilson might continue on for years, but more disconcerting would be the extremely large class size next year. Signing five players for 2008 means the team will only have two scholarships to offer in 2010, which appears to be another very deep recruiting class. Evening the numbers out by using a few redshirts would only lock up those scholarships an additional year.

With the addition, however, UW could field an entire starting lineup down the road from the Class of 2008 alone.

Perhaps because of the sheer distance between Madison and the Phoenix area, Evans is the most obscure Badger recruit. His recruitment arc was similar to that of Mike Bruesewitz. He was an unknown commodity, until suddenly, a quiet but solid internet buzz grew to indicate an impending commitment.

Video | Photos (Recruiting Planet)

: : :

Brian Butch finished with 9 points in the DiGiorno's College All-Star Game played last Friday at the Final Four, though he did not shoot particularly well. At least he was invited. He did nail a couple of 3-pointers. You can see one (sort of) in CBS' video highlights.

Prospect Profile: Ryan Evans

Ryan Evans, F
6'6" :: 185 lbs.
Class of 2008
Chandler (AZ) Hamilton HS

Scout: 2 Stars * *
ESPN/Scouts Inc. grade:

Recent Press
5/5: Former DV guard Evans -- now of Hamilton -- en route to Wisconsin - Ahwautukee Foothills News
4/30: Evans Writes His Own Story -
4/17: Arizona prep's potential impresses Badgers coaches - Cap Times
4/16: Basketball signs one more for 2008 -

The Verbal
Badgers power forward with Arizona standout - JSOnline (4/7/08)
Hamilton's Evans commits to Wisconsin - Arizona Republic (4/8/08)
Badgers add fifth recruit - WiSJ (4/7/08)

The Hype
Hamilton advances to semifinals for 1st time - East Valley Tribune (2/24/08)

Highlights: Ryan Evans upload (2007-08) - Rivals
Game: Hamilton 65, Gilbert 61 (1/12/07)* - APN Sports
*ed note: preview - download free software to view full video

MaxPreps: 2007-08


Thursday, April 3, 2008

On the Stove Top: Links (4/3)

As we delve into the off-season, content is harder to come by. Thus, a collection of links to catch up on the week's happenings ...

- If you have time, read Monday's article by Rob Hernandez on Jonte Flowers in the Wisconsin State Journal. The whole story was well done, but the Michael Flowers quote rehashed by Hernandez is what stuck out to me:

"Good leadership produces winners,'' Michael said. "But great leadership produces other great leaders. That's what I think of Jonte."
Some might have heard a variation of that quote at some point, but I had not. That shows a great level of respect was present in the Flowers household as all those brothers developed into great athletes ... no doubt fueled by some scrappy driveway pickup games. Now, Jonte finds himself with an opportunity to play basketball professionally, his first step being the Portsmouth Invitational. The same invite led Kam Taylor to a professional contract in Spain; let's see if Flowers can do better.

- The St. Paul Pioneer Press named Jordan Taylor its 2007-08 Player of the Year this week. Will Minnesota's Mr. Basketball be Taylor's next accolade? He cannot arrive in Madison soon enough.

- Speaking of next year's new comers, one rumor gaining steam this week is that Phoenix-area wing Ryan Evans will be joining the Badgers in 2008 as well. Evans, whose father played at UW, seems capable and willing to walk-on to the program, but the intriguing part of this rumor is exactly when and for how long Evans might be paying his own way. Would he in fact be given only a one-year free ride his freshman year, thereby "holding" a scholarship for Jamil Wilson starting in '09, or be a preferred walk-on for a few years with the possibility of earning a schollie down the line. An article referenced on the message board seems to be the source of the speculation.

- The collegiate season will culminate this weekend, but the summer high school circuit is already underway. is running a series of previews for some of the state's best amateur programs, including the following:
:: Wisconsin Playground Warriors 6U (feat. C Evan Anderson, Sussex Hamilton G Kameron Cerroni & Milw. Lutheran G T.J. Kadima)
:: DTA 16U (feat. Milwaukee-area talent like G Flavien Davis & Milw. Custer PF Calvin Godfrey)
:: Tosa Bandits 17U (feat. Wauwatosa East G Keondre Gholston & the Lawson brothers of Racine St. Catherine's)

-Snubbed by the NCAA Tournament committee, Ohio State marched through the NIT and dominated UMass in the second half to claim its own postseason title Thursday night. Small consolation for the Big Ten.

Assuming Kosta Koufos goes pro, Ohio State will be facing the loss of its three top scorers again this offseason. The Buckeyes do have a nice, young nucleus on the perimeter in David Lighty, Evan Turner and Jon Diebler. But Dallas Lauderdale and McDonald's All-American B.J. Mullens are no Greg Odens.

- If you are a glutton for punishment, take another gander at the numbers from Davidson's demolition of Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. From a defensive efficiency standpoint, the game was far and away UW's worst of the year, allowing 1.34+ points-per-possession. The 18-2 advantage for Davidson on fast breaks sheds some light on how that happened.

- Camp Lambeau came to the defense of the swing offense. I myself think the offense--as espoused by Bo Ryan--has some inherent shortcomings, but that discussion is for another day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tom Crean Finally Gets His Wish

If you have not heard yet, Tom Crean will be the next head coach at Indiana. The move allows Crean to crawl out from under the shadow of Bo Ryan and Wisconsin's large state university and return to his Big Ten roots at another basketball-first school. Now that Marquette has officially confirmed the report, how will this affect Wisconsin?

As a recruiting nerd, the first thing that jumped into my mind was how this might aid in Wisconsin's recruitment of Jamil Wilson. While it's true that Crean will keep recruiting Wilson for Indiana (and offer plenty of playing time), I don't see him following "Tan Tommy" to this new locale. If any place in Indiana has a shot, it would be Purdue, but even that might be a long shot.

The biggest thing Marquette has going for it with any Racine recruit is proximity and nothing has changed on that front. Depending on who becomes the next Marquette coach, I think the Golden Eagles should still be considered the front-runners. Crean's departure cannot hurt the Badgers' chances though. A best-case scenario involving Wilson would be if the coaching changes cleared up his mind enough to make an announcement earlier than the March 2009 date he has previously indicated. Even if he didn't choose Wisconsin, getting that storyline out of the way would benefit the Badgers.

Only time will tell if Marquette shifts its recruiting focus to a more in-state approach under a new head coach, as opposed to the regional, Big East-conscious style of Crean. There are plenty of great coaches that might find the Marquette job a step up. However, the university will be dangerously close to falling off the map if it makes the wrong move here. If I was a Golden Eagle fan, I would not be too excited about the pressure on new AD Steve Cottingham.

A new coach will face the expected issues: players leaving the program, turning pro and previously committed high schoolers rethinking their decision. Incoming swingman Nick Williams, out of Alabama, and Jersey guard Tyshawn Taylor are already planning to ask out of their respective LOIs.

As you know, Marquette is not on my radar for discussion normally. While I might understand the tension behind the UW-MU blood feud that you see on message boards, I think it is stupid. Therefore, I have not stored up any vitriol for Crean (although it sounds like he may be a jerk and does look a bit silly being so tan in Wisconsin). But I think he is a good coach whom Marquette will miss.

So if Marquette dips, Wisconsin can only breathe easier for so long because Crean is a step in the right direction for Indiana--and the Hoosiers play UW twice as often. Trouble is, there are surely dark days and many more steps ahead for Indiana. On Monday, Indiana's interim head coach Dan Dakich ejected two more players from the Hoosier train. The cupboard gets more bare each day for a team that already was set to lose the Big Ten's only two AP All-Americans. The Kelvin Sampson mess also shook some incoming Indiana recruits out of verbal committments, although Marquette and Crean himself stepped in on at least one such player. Others, like Matt Roth, are excited for the Tom Crean era to begin.

On the surface, this looks like a great match for the Hoosiers. Crean is an Izzo disciple that has proven he can build a program in Big Ten country. The Indiana program is in serious need of rebuilding and Crean's strength is recruiting. That skill will be needed at IU to offset the stigma attached to a school that faces impending NCAA sanctions. If anyone can keep the talent level high in Bloomington, it is someone like Crean. The poll and fan comments over at The Hoosier Scoop indicate most Indiana fans are very pleased by the move.

The hire is as good as can be expected for Indiana. As for the Badgers, Bo will still face Tom Crean annually and nothing ought to change as far as recruiting goes. If nothing else, this only cements Wisconsin's status as the people's champ, a fact some Marquette fans will never be able to swallow.

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

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