This year's Wisconsin basketball team was like no other we've ever seen. At certain points it seemed that they were overachieving, and at other times they made us all want to pull our hair out. As frustrating as this season may have been, Badger fans have a lot to look forward to. Though last week's early exit in the NCAA Tournament was extremely disappointing, the future of Wisconsin basketball is very bright.
The Badgers' rising star Sam Dekker really took Wisconsin's early exit to heart, as the Freshman stud took blame for Wisconsin's loss- despite being the only Badger to score in double figures in the game. In his talk with JSOnline's Jeff Potrykus, Dekker shows Badger fans how determined he is to push the Badgers "to the next level".
"I want to improve every facet of my game," he said. "I mean, I feel like I could have done so much more for this team.
"This will be one of the hardest-working offseasons our team has ever seen. I am going to try to be a leader and push these guys to get us to the next level."
Asked to define what he meant by the next level, Dekker didn't hesitate.
"Winning a Big Ten title and making a push deeper into the NCAA Tournament," he said. "We can't be content with anything but the best."
It's no secret that Bo Ryan and Co. have big plans for Sam Dekker. This guy has more hype and enthusiasm surrounding him then any other Badger player we've ever seen (yes, more then Devin Harris). Dekker is the centerpiece of Bo Ryan's master plan for the next several years. With his positive attitude and determination he's shown along with his talent, Sam Dekker seems to have all the ingredients to becoming Wisconsin's next superstar. Let's just hope he sticks around a while.
Next season marks the start of a new era for Wisconsin basketball, as the program says goodbye to 5 seniors who had extraordinary careers. The losses of Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Mike Bruesewitz leave a gaping hole in Wisconsin's front court. The Badgers just won't be the same without Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise at the head of the "bench mob". But as that old cliche says, all good things must come to an end.
This summer, the Badgers will welcome 5+ new faces in to their program- a group of guys unlike any recruiting class Bo Ryan has ever brought in. Ranked 28th in the country by ESPN, UW's 2013 recruiting class is composed of players who all have abundant amounts of potential.
One of Bo Ryan's greatest recruiting victories of his career came in Ohio over the past two years. Bo drew the "Twin Towers" of Nigel Hayes (Whitmer High, 6'7" 215 lbs, 4-star, pictured above right) and Vitto Brown (Bowling Green, 6'7" 205 lbs, 2-star pictured above left) away from Ohio State and reeled them in to Wisconsin. The two are very similar players; long and athletic guys who have great passing skills and scoring ability, along with their defensive presence and shot-blocking abilities.
To make a long story short, Brown and Hayes still have some work to do, but they both have very high ceilings, and could be very fun for Badger fans to watch a few years down the road. I expect both of them to get some major minutes next year, as Wisconsin's front court depth is going to be very thin heading in to camp.
The Class of 2013 also features two talented wings. Riley Dearring (Minnetonka, 6'5", 175 lbs, 3-star) is a guy who fits perfectly in to Bo Ryan's swing offense. Dearring has a nose for scoring the basketball, as he possess a smooth jumper with long range as well as the ability to get to the rim. Jordan Hill (Phillips Exeter Academy, 6'3", 175 lbs, 2-star) is a somewhat unknown player that instantly connected with Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin staff. Hill isn't known for his flashy play, but his reputation as a defensive juggernaut is what caught the eye of Bo.
Finally, the highest ranked and most enticing piece of the class is Point Guard Bronson Koenig (La Crosse Aquinas, 6'3", 180 lbs, 4-star). Koenig has elite court vision along with great play making ability- two qualities vital to a Point Guard running the show in Bo Ryan's offense. Koenig has a spark that could end Wisconsin's infamous scoring droughts for good (that right there alone should make you ecstatic for this guy!). I sincerely believe that Koenig could beat out Traevon Jackson for the starting Point Guard roll this fall. Simply put: he's that good.
These 5 guys (along with the walk-ons that will join them) will have the opportunity to compete for playing time and to work their way in to the rotation early on in their careers. One thing's for sure, there will be a lot of youth on the floor for the Badgers next season The Badgers' 2013-14 roster (as of now) will consist of 2 Seniors, 4 Juniors, 3 Sophomores and 5 Freshman. Playing time, starting jobs, and roles will be up for grabs.
With Bo Ryan getting up there in age (65) and Wisconsin entering this "rebuilding mode", you have to wonder: could Bo making his final push towards a Final Four and National Championship? If you put all the pieces together, it sure seems like Bo planned this out perfectly as a way to end his career. Will this be the last group of guys that Bo goes through?
Who knows, but there's no doubt that the talent Bo Ryan has assembled in the Badger basketball program has the potential to do big things. In my opinion, this collection of talent is the best of Bo Ryan's tenure. With names like Koenig, Dekker, Brown, Hayes and Dearring, the future of Wisconsin Basketball is very bright.