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As four scholarship seniors and two popular walk-ons exit the Wisconsin men's basketball program, the 2011-12 season will certainly bring an increased need for the casual fan to pick up a game program.
The past month, however, has given us a glimpse of the previously unknown names and faces of the future. First via a flurry of announcements regarding high-quality walk-ons to the program, and secondly in the form of new names that the Badgers are targeting on the recruiting trail.
Less than two weeks ago, multiple outlets reported Orono's Jordan Smith was headed to Madison as a freshman this coming season, but the full story appears to be still developing. The latest is that Smith visited St. Louis over the weekend and came away with a legit D1 offer.
Smith is still mulling over his options. The fact that he hasn't jumped at Rick Majerus' offer right away should tell you something about the pull of playing at a perennial winner like Wisconsin. Nevertheless, turning down a full ride will be tough to do.
Just days after convincing myself that Wisconsin would not hop into the transfer game to fill its remaining 2012 slot, for a former target like Nick Russell (who is leaving Kansas State), Bo Ryan pulled a even better rabbit out of his hat when he convinced Zach Bohannon to walk-on. Bohannon, one of former Badger Jason Bohannon's three younger brothers, is a safer bet than Smith or Russell to land on the isthmus and may be a bigger coup. After two years at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the 6'8" Bohannon plans to transfer to Wisconsin and join the team in 2012-13 after sitting out a season.
Like his brother, Bohannon's top skill is long-distance shooting. Along with his bigger frame, Z-Bo will be a welcome addition to the front court depth for two seasons.
The potential loss of Smith from the roster means there are still two walk-on slots yet to be filled for next season though. More transfer rumors in the air concerning Jake Thomas, a Racine native, suggest he may be looking to return to the Dairy State after playing at South Dakota last season. If Thomas is willing to pay his way, would Wisconsin try to out-woo a place like UW-Milwaukee to get him? Both parties -- Thomas and UW -- would be wise to get in touch ... and I am sure those possibilities are already being explored.
I've updated our depth chart page to reflect the latest additions to Wisconsin's future roster.
In other recruiting news, former UW commitment Devon Hodges finally found his home on Saturday. The 2011 forward signed with Bradley of the Missouri Valley Conference, ending a tumultuous couple of years since parting ways with the Badgers a year ago. Hodges played sparingly as a senior due to eligibility concerns and political disputes after transferring to Bolingbrook High School.
Now that it's May, all ears are tuned to the underclassmen on the high school travel circuit. Check back with B5Q for updates to Wisconsin's big board for 2013.