The kickoff to the early signing period (aka: National Signing Day) was Sam Dekker Day as it relates to the Wisconsin Badgers. Dekker, a consensus Top 30 player in the 2012 class, is the only scholarship member of his class that will arrive in Madison a year from now.
Preferred walk-on Zak Showalter of Germantown will join Dekker next fall, but it's the 6'8" small forward out of tiny Sheboygan (WI) Area Lutheran High School that has fans buzzing. Dekker is poised to become UW's highest-rated hoops recruit since another versatile small forward, Joe Krabbenhoft in 2005.
Dekker is the kind of recruit that Bo Ryan -- he of the giant pay raise -- should be securing. First of all, the kid is the top in-state prospect. Wisconsin has now hit on three of the last five most heralded dairyland recruits (Evan Anderson, Dekker and Bronson Koenig). Dekker is highly skilled, whether shooting, passing or handling the ball, and smart. The kicker is Dekker's great athleticism.
But why listen to me? I'll let the coaches talk about him.
"Sam possesses all of the first-class intangibles that you want in someone representing your program on the court, in the classroom and in the community," Ryan said in his first official statement regarding Dekker.
Ryan went on to express how Sam's unwavering commitment to Wisconsin paints the program in a great light, especially after his explosion during the AAU season.
"From a basketball perspective, his length and skill set will allow him to play different positions and as he develops and adds strength to his frame, he will be a great fit within our system. He’s got a great knowledge base of the game. He can handle the ball like a guard with excellent court vision and passing ability and a perimeter shooting game that has rapidly improved."
Associate head coach Greg Gard went a step further:
"We couldn't be happier. We are getting the total package with Sam."
National recruiting analyst Dave Telep sees a bright future ahead for Dekker as well.
"The guy is going to be a great player at Wisconsin — not a good player; he's going to be a great player," Telep said. "I think every now and then you see some kids who are going to put their signature on the history of their program, and this is a guy where big things will be expected and eventually he'll deliver on them."
Dekker's signing is even more important in light of the late push around the Big Ten for top-flight talent in the 2012 class. Michigan made the biggest splash last week by nabbing arguably the most sought after player in the class in power forward Mitch McGary. To counter, Michigan State reportedly beat out conference mates Purdue and Indiana for the services of super shooting guard Gary Harris. Indiana has a five-man class of highly-touted players, led by point guard Yogi Ferrell.
Our friends at umhoops.com put together a nice league ranking of all the 2012 classes that is pretty spot on. Despite signing just Dekker, the Badgers rank 6th, while the Spartans are certain to move up to at least second on the list.
In other news, 2013 guard Geno Thorpe ended his recruitment early with a surprise selection of Penn State. Lamont Paris was hard after Thorpe this fall, but it never seemed meant to be for the Badgers. Between Thorpe rescheduling his campus visit multiple times and No. 1 guard target Koenig verballing to Wisconsin, UW certainly has other options its working on. Semi Ojeleye is probably the top priority right now, but keep an eye on Matt Thomas down the road as well.