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Monday, June 14, 2010

Keeping the Pipelines Open

This past weekend was an important one for Wisconsin recruiting news as Bo Ryan landed two new verbal commitments and extended yet another offer in the Class of 2011.

Center Frank Kaminsky from Benet Academy in Lisle, IL, and combo guard Traevon Jackson from Westerville South near Columbus, OH, add to a 2011 class that already includes Chicago point guard George Marshall. On Friday night, Jarrod Uthoff of Cedar Rapids Jefferson in Iowa officially became the latest competitor for that class' final scholarship.

As soon as Wisconsin extended an offer to Kaminsky in May, this 6'10" coach's son with an inside-outside game looked like a good fit for the Badgers and personally, I considered his verbal commitment only a matter of time. It didn't take long. The staff, led by Howard Moore, bought into his stock low and saw Kaminsky's value grow immediately.

It's interesting that Kaminsky said Wisconsin recruited him as a power forward. I have been insisting that Bo should take two big men this cycle to replace Leuer and Nankivil, and it appears Wisconsin would still take Marshall Plumlee at center if he wanted to sign.

Wisconsin has been recruiting Jackson for a long time, but the fact that he showed a commitment to developing (and showcasing) his point guard skills by switching AAU teams seemed to indicate he would not wind up in Madison. Then a week ago, Jackson said he was choosing between Arizona State and Wisconsin, at which point most Badger fans probably were confident in his commitment. With Marshall already on board, maybe Bo enjoys the three-guard lineup even more than we thought.

No one is labeling Jackson a recruiting coup even though he is the son of hoops legend Jim Jackson, mostly because he had only two BCS-level offers as a rising senior. That's fair. Jackson is not an explosive athlete and I would bet many schools probably didn't bother getting involved early with him because the shadow of dad's alma mater loomed nearby. However, Jackson does possess the strength, leadership, basketball IQ and passing skills that will be a perfect fit in the program. Comparisons to Jordan Taylor are legit. Plus, it's good to have another Traevon/Travon/Trevon in the fold ...

Besides the obvious benefit of acquiring quality student-athletes, the verbals were valuable toward maintaining UW's recruiting connections made over the last few years. Kaminsky plays for the Illinois Wolves AAU team, coached by Mike Mullins. Last September, Wisconsin had one former Wolf (Diamond Taylor) on its roster, one verbally committed (Hodges) and outstanding offers to two more (Randle, Egwu). That foursome evaporated completely over the last year. So it's good to get back in with an important AAU program in the region that produces good D-I talent and runs a clean ship.

The Wisconsin football team has seen its Ohio recruiting net some great talent and the basketball program seems to be buying into the same theory now. Jackson will be the second Buckeye on the UW roster during Rob Wilson's senior year.

As for Uthoff, his stock is rising on the summer circuit after earning first team All-State honors as a junior. Uthoff's passing will get the most praise based on his highlight reels. Though he is a skinny 6'8" now, Uthoff may wind up as the second big Wisconsin is looking for if he can add some muscle.

Iowa countered with a scholarship offer of its own two days after Wisconsin, joining a long list that includes Butler, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa State. Uthoff's cousin, Dean, is still the all-time leading rebounder in Cyclone history. Expect Uthoff to join Plumlee as Wisconsin's primary targets going forward in 2011. Gary Close is Bo's lead recruiter in Iowa.

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