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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where Are They Now Revisited: 2008-09

As the season has wrapped up for multitudes of teams across the country, it is an ideal time to see how the recent high school standouts from Wisconsin that have gone outside the state for college basketball have been doing.

When the WIAA boys basketball tournament comes to Madison this week, we will be reminded again that the state is churning out more good players each year. Some are excelling beyond the prep scene, while others still are finding their niche. You will find a wide range in the level of competition these guys face but all of the following players snared Division I scholarships, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

: : : Seniors
This year's seniors include a couple of fifth-year players originally from the high school class of 2004. As you will see, I grouped the players into four categories of success based solely on the average amount of minutes they logged.

30+ min/g:
Mike Nelson, G, North Dakota St. (Summit) [stats]
Though Nelson's numbers have plateaued or dipped slightly since his breakout sophomore campaign, his team's star has continued to rise. North Dakota State (26-6, 16-2) clinched an NCAA tournament bid in it's first year of Division I eligibility by winning the Summit League championship game. Along with three other redshirt seniors, Nelson led the Bison to the outright regular season league title as well. Nelson posted averages of 12 ppg, 4 rpg and 2.5 apg this season, good for second or third on the team in each category.

David DuBois, G, Western Illinois (Summit) [stats]
The Madison LaFollette grad found a home in his third and final collegiate stop, winding up opposite Nelson in the Summit League. He has transformed himself into a quality guard and the unquestioned leader for the Leathernecks. Despite enduring a tough season with Western Illinois (9-20, 6-12), Dubois averaged just about 18 ppg and 6 rpg as a senior to earn a second-team all-conference nod.

J.R. Blount, G, Loyola (Horizon) [stats]
Blount left Whitefish Bay Dominican a champion and will leave Loyola four years later as the ninth-leading scorer in Ramblers history, just two points shy of #8. He led Loyola (14-18, 6-12) in scoring and assists yet again as a senior. Blount's 42 points against Rockhurst (who?!) set a Loyola record for season openers ... but his team still lost!

20+ min/g:
Jermyl Jackson-Wilson, F, Colorado (Big XII) [stats]
Jackson-Wilson rebounded from a sub par junior year to finish with improved shooting percentages from the field and free throw line in his final season. The same 6'6" player who was a force inside for Milwaukee King some six years ago was a bit small to thrive as a mere shot blocker in a BCS conference. Jackson-Wilson just missed cracking the top 15 for career blocked shots at Colorado (9-22, 1-15) even though he began his career at Ohio State.

John Rybak, F, Texas State (Southland) [stats]
After sitting out the 2007-08 season due to transfer rules, the 6'5" Rybak has made an instant impact from the wing for the Bobcats. The sharpshooter hit threes at a 39.5% clip and scored 10 ppg for Texas State (7-9, 14-16) this season.

10+ min/g:
Jacob Baryenbruch, G, Drake (Missouri Valley) [stats]
A Spring Green native, Baryenbruch suffered through a pretty dreadful shooting year for the Bulldogs (17-15, 7-11) with numbers pretty similar to his junior season across the board.

: : : Juniors
The best players to escape the state might be from the Class of 2006, where three guys in particular are playing either at a very high level, in a very tough conference, or both.

20+ min/g:
Jerry Smith, G, Louisville (Big East) [stats]
This Wauwautosa East product has regressed statistically in his third year, but is still deadly from deep (39.6%) and boasts an impressive effective field goal percentage overall (59.5). Let's keep in mind that Louisville (28-5, 16-2) is the top overall seed in this year's NCAA Tournament, so a drop in production is not a big surprise.

Adam Koch, F, Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) [stats]
Koch's impressive season continues after holding off Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament's classic overtime final. Koch leads a balanced scoring attack at just over 12 ppg while chipping in 5 rpg. Thanks to Koch's improvement, Northern Iowa (23-10, 14-4) shared the regular season conference title with perennial MVC powerhouse Creighton also. Koch was selected First-Team All-Conference in addition to being named to the 2009 all-tournament team.

Andy Polka, F, Loyola (Horizon) [stats]
The former Oshkosh West standout had been a rebounding force in the Horizon League throughout his first two seasons, but suffered a severely sprained ankle on December 13 which basically wiped out his junior campaign. Polka tried to return eight games later, but only manages to play four minutes before the dreaded "out indefinitely" tag. It's a shame he played in enough games that a redshirt season is not a possibility. Even so, Polka currently sits two rebounds shy of 500 for his career.

10+ min/g:
Devron Bostick, G, Minnesota (Big 10) [stats]
After playing a couple of great years of junior college ball, Bostick is back on the radar with Tubby Smith's Gophers. Bostick, a product of the Racine St. Catherine's machine, has battled inconsistency in his first season of power conference hoops with Minnesota (22-10, 9-9), but did explode for a season-high 19 points in 16 minutes against Penn State in January.

Under 10 min/g:
Mitchell Carter, C, South Carolina (SEC) [stats]
Though he is playing for a pretty good South Carolina team (21-8, 10-6), Mitchell still does not get his huge frame off the pine much. Mitchell has played in more games (19) than before, but clearly the highlight for him will be the NCAA tournament experience if the Gamecocks squeeze into the field of 64.

Steve Gruber, G, Brown (Ivy) [stats]
The junior from Whitefish Bay is sticking with it at Brown (9-19, 3-11) and playing some ball, though he appears to reside in Scrub City.

: : : Sophomores
It is interesting to see where some people who dropped off the radar actually wind up and this current group of sophomores is a great example of that.

30+ min/g:
Diante Garrett, G, Iowa St. (Big XII) [stats]
Garrett earned a dramatic increase in playing time at Iowa State as a full-time starter. Accordingly, the skinny soph also improved on his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71) and his rebounding, much to the team's delight. Garrett averaged almost 10 ppg, 5 apg, over 3 rpg and 1 spg in over 1,000 minutes for the young Cyclones (15-16, 4-12); he still prefers to drive and dish than pop 3-pointers.

20+ min/g:
Will Hudson, F, Oakland (Summit) [stats]
The Golden Grizzlies fell to Nelson's North Dakota State Bison in a nail biter and but still will be dancing in the new CIT postseason tournament. Hudson has progressed nicely and starts for Oakland (22-12, 13-5) while posting just over 21 min/g. The Middleton grad is still 6'9" and a bit more chiseled at 225 lbs. He made 100-of-147 shot attempts this season, good for over 68%. Hudson appears to be headed toward a fine career.

10+ min/g:
James Haarsma, F, Evansville (Missouri Valley) [stats]
It has been almost a year since Haarsma was offered a free ride by Evansville, but two since he led Racine St. Catherine's to a WIAA state title as a high school senior. Haarsma did not play ball last year. He is entrenched in the Aces' rotation already in his first season, however, and sports some fairly robust shooting percentages (.542/.691/.444). The top three scorers for Evansville (17-13, 8-10) are all seniors, so Haarsma will have every chance to step up even more next season.

Alex Davis, F, Tennessee Tech (Ohio Valley) [stats]
After finishing his high school career at Milwaukee Lutheran in 2005, Davis spent a year at a prep school and popped up as a sophomore at Tennessee Tech (12-18, 6-12). He sat out the entire 2007-08 season after playing sparingly the year before. Davis was averaging about 20 min/g until February when he missed two in a row and struggled to get back after that. Though the Golden Eagles were not very good, Davis' two best games (13 pts, 10 rebs versus Eastern Illinois & a 21-pt outburst against Tennessee State) both resulted in wins.

Under 10 min/g:
Matt Dorlack, C, Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley) [stats]
The 6'11" established a career-high back in December, but is still fighting to contribute for Eastern Illinois (12-18, 8-10).

Scott Christopherson, G, Iowa State (Big XII) [stats]
This former Wisconsin Mr. Basketball (2007) sat out the 2008-09 season upon transferring from Marquette, where he appeared in 18 games as a freshman reserve.

*Former Bay View star Dwight Buycks is returning to Milwaukee. He signed with Marquette after dominating the JUCO circuit the past two seasons at Indian Hills Community College. Buycks was named First-Team All-Region XI for the second straight season.

Andrew Zimmerman, a 6'9" forward out of Oostburg, will presumably end up at Stanford
at some point. He left Santa Clara in February 2008 after some shuffling in the coaching staff, despite some promising play as a freshman.

: : : Freshmen
This year's freshman class has a chance to produce a couple stars, even though it is tough for nearly all of them to get much court time right away.

30+ min/g:
Kwamain Mitchell, G, St. Louis (Atlantic 10) [stats]
Another Whitefish Bay Dominican player who has made a major impact for his team from day one. First of all, Mitchell kept his assist-to-turnover ratio above 1:1 right off the bat while scoring nearly 11 ppg as a freshman starter. Secondly, he leads St. Louis (18-13, 8-8) with 3.7 apg and adds over 3 rpg too as a freshman starter. Lastly, the former all-state selection laid in the winning basket in the Billikens' opening round victory in the conference tournament last Wednesday.

Under 10 min/g:
Korie Lucious, G, Michigan St. (Big Ten) [stats]
Michigan State did not need Lucious much as the Spartans (26-6, 15-3) romped through the Big Ten. The rookie didn't look half bad though. His first-year highlights included handing out 12 assists against Alcorn State and scoring 12 points on four 3-pointers against Iowa.

John Benkoske, C, Loyola (Horizon) [stats]
Benkoske is the latest Rambler from the Oshkosh West program. He played in 25 games this season but still needs to build a lot more muscle. Benkoske did averaged 12 min/g over the final seven games of the year.

Conor Smith, F, Richmond (Atlantic 10) [stats]
Smith wisely redshirted last season and began the year logging over 17 min/g. However, he did not play in many games during the conference season for the Spiders (17-14, 9-7). He has good length for his position at 6'9" and can step out to hit the trey.

Jake Gollon, F, Mercer (Atlantic Sun) [stats]
Stevens Point native Jake Gollon is a 6'6" wing who appeared in only two games this season for Mercer (17-15, 11-9). Hopefully he takes the redshirt since the Bears are a young team that loses only one senior.

*Last year's Mr. Basketball, DeMarcus Phillips, was also named First-Team All-Region XI as a freshman at Marshalltown Community College. Marshalltown plays in the same conference as Indian Hills and Buycks: the ICCAC.

**Meanwhile, two other top-rated Wisconsin players from the Class of 2008 -- Jake Barnett and Johnny Lacy -- are holding their own out east at famed Notre Dame Prep, which also features Class of 2009 prospect Calvin Godfrey. EDIT: Barnett will attend Toledo next fall.

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