Germantown senior Zak Showalter committed to Wisconsin on Tuesday as a preferred walk-on, spurning as many as 15 Division I scholarship offers for the chance to play for Bo Ryan, the same man who coached his father.
The 6'2" Showalter topped 30 points in a game three times for the Warriors as a junior and was named a first team All-State selection after averaging 19.5 points, 6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dayton, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Drake, Rice, Missouri State, North Dakota State and South Dakota State were among the schools which Showalter turned down to pursue his dream with the Badgers starting in 2012.
Bo Ryan coached Zak's father Steve at UW-Platteville in the late 1980s and the elder Showalter was a scoring machine under Ryan. Steve Showalter's name is still scattered throughout the Pioneer record book and was inducted into the UW-Platteville Hall of Fame in 2005.
Steve Showalter told the Wisconsin State Journal that he and his son met with Ryan on Monday to lay out Zak's options:
"We sat us down in the office (Monday) and (Ryan) presented the possibilities to us and said that he would like to have Zak walk-on with the possibility that he can earn a scholarship in the future," Steve Showalter said. "And Zak wanted to take on that challenge."
After a very successful summer with the Wisconsin Swing 17U club on the AAU circuit, the offers kept trickling in for Showalter and interest increased from the Badgers, leading to a hectic few months. Showalter is known as one of the toughest and most competitive players in the state. But unlike recent walk-ons, he is also known for his athleticism. And yes, I mean leaping ability.
Showalter first burst onto the recruiting landscape as a sophomore when he averaged over 17 ppg. Over the past year, he has tried to diversify his skills by playing point guard more often, which will increase his chances of seeing the floor in an increasingly crowded Badger backcourt. Showalter is currently ranked as the fourth-best prospect in Wisconsin's 2012 class by Mark Miller of Wishoops.net.
This fall, Showalter will team with 2013 big man Luke Fischer once again for his father's Germantown squad. The Warriors blew through summer league play undefeated and are favorites to play for the WIAA Division 1 gold ball next spring after posting a 24-2 record last season, falling just one heartbreaking game short of a state tournament berth under the reduced four-team field format.
We have seen Bo's mojo at work this offseason as it relates to pulling well-regarded players to the program as walk-ons over more lucrative offers. First Zach Bohannon announced that he would transfer to Wisconsin from the Air Force Academy and walk on to the program, adding size to the Badger front court for 2012-13 after sitting out a year. Next, Minnesota sharp shooter Jordan Smith confirmed that he would turn down an offer from St. Louis to walk on for Wisconsin this fall.
As much as anything else, these recent events point to what a steady powerhouse Wisconsin had become under Bo Ryan. I think concerns about the program's ceiling in the NCAA Tournament during Ryan's regime are valid, but the perception of the program in Wisconsin and bordering states like Iowa and Minnesota should not be understated. Like Dick Bennett before him, prep coaches around the state revere Ryan and he is equally respected by his coaching colleagues at the highest levels around the country. Now recruits of every type are taking note as well.
See how the recruiting services rate Showalter:
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