So, your favorite college basketball program has been passed over by a major in-state prospect? Avoid those irrational feelings of anger over a high schooler's choice and embrace the winds of change. And what better way than remembering the recruits already in the fold?
As expected, prized 2012 recruit J.P. Tokoto chose North Carolina over Wisconsin on Thursday night. It is okay to be disappointed by the another "homegrown" talent getting away from the Badgers. But it is not okay to get angry with the kid for picking an opportunity that most ball players grow up dreaming about and only a miniscule percentage get the chance to chase.
Could the timing and execution of his decision been handled better? Absolutely, especially out of respect for the local fans. But being the runner-up to UNC in this situation is actually more impressive than it seems, as looking back it appears Tokoto wanted to join Roy Williams all along. Bo Ryan's efforts at least gave him pause.
However, I am also not one of those who thinks landing Tokoto did not matter either. Last time Ryan landed a player of this caliber (Brian Butch), the Badgers achieved their first No. 1 ranking and two of their finest seasons ever. With a program as successful as Wisconsin, one player can make that difference. That's why they are called difference makers. Not only that, but Tokoto appeared to fill the athletic slasher role that has been missing from UW's recent teams.
And that is where Sheboygan Lutheran's Sam Dekker comes in.
Dekker is the lone commitment in the 2012 class, but a great building block. Dekker has size (6'7") for a small forward, handles the ball well and is a better shooter than Tokoto. The Badgers can build around Dekker, just as they would have built around Tokoto.
Putting up 50 points twice in a season, albeit in losses, should help alleviate some of the concerns about Dekker playing against lesser competition with Lutheran (16-6). He is flat out dominating at the WIAA Division 5 level and you cannot ask for any more than complete domination. The second 50-point game came at the end of January in a double overtime loss to Howards Grove, a Division 4 team.
In fact, half of the teams in Sheboygan Lutheran's Central Lakeshore Conference are in larger divisions. Two such teams combined to hand the Crusaders a two-gam losing streak to end the regular season. Don't blame Dekker though. The junior poured in 31 against Ozaukee and then did it all against unbeaten Oostburg, finishing with 32 points and 12 rebounds.
Throughout the month of February, Dekker strung together some impressive scoring outbursts. He had five threes in the third quarter of the 50-point game, scored 21 second-half points to beat Sheboygan Christian, and 14 in the third quarter of another well-rounded performance against Random Lake. The Crusaders earned a bye in the state playoffs and held off Sheboygan Christian for the third time this season, thanks to Dekker's late free throw shooting. [bracket]
|1.28||Howards Grove||69-77||L (2OT)||50||-||-||-||-|
Having Dekker in the fold already makes the "loss" of Tokoto much easier to handle. I would not be surprised to see the staff go big with the final scholarship in the class and wait for the more talent-rich 2013 class to land a wing. On the other hand, athletic specimens like Tokoto can often be late bloomers in their senior seasons, so Wisconsin might still unearth a gem with a similar skill set. It should be an interesting next few months on the recruiting trail.
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