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Bo Ryan may have pulled his next recruiting coup when Rockridge (IL) High School junior Ethan Happ gave Wisconsin a verbal commitment Tuesday. The 6'7", 200-pound forward settled on the Badgers quickly after receiving the offer at UW's advanced camp less than two weeks ago and visiting Iowa last Tuesday.
In the tradition of Jon Leuer and Frank Kaminsky, Happ was just another unknown 6'3" guard playing in a small town until he grew four more inches in the last year, became an honorable mention all-state pick and started making noise on the AAU circuit this spring. Assistant coach Gary Close and the rest of the staff took notice.
Happ is a hard-working, agile, slashing small forward with a high-energy motor. Though his current frame reminds you of how current Badger Duje Dukan has filled out, Happ has a ways to go to become the outside shooter Dukan was coming out of high school. Then again, he's has two more full seasons to work on it. Possessing large hands and long arms, he has the capacity to grow another inch or two so it's possible Wisconsin sees him as a potential option at power forward down the line as well as playing on the wing. He can score and finish near the rim.
Milwaukee and Green Bay were the other schools which had offered Happ a scholarship. He specifically called out the coaching staff's ability to develop players as a major reason why he wanted to be a Badger.
Happ's commitment is the first in the 2014 class for the Badgers, ending a nine-month commitment drought that saw UW miss out on several other prospects in multiple classes. Wisconsin is expected to have two more open slots in the 2014 recruiting cycle and currently has offers out to at least five other players.
As a sophomore, Happ led Rockridge to a 21-7 record in Class 2A while posting averages of 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game. But he has taken his game to a new level this summer. As Rockridge head coach Toby Whiteman told Fox Sports Wisconsin:
"The improvement in a two-month span is a testament to Ethan and his work ethic," Whiteman said. "The kid is always calling me wanting in the high school gym to shoot on the gun or work on his game. He loves basketball and he wants to be the best player he can be."
Quad City Elite AAU coach Logan Wynn told the Wisconsin State Journal that Wisconsin's interest in Happ picked up significantly after the first event of April's "live period" when he outplayed highly-touted 2014 forward Keita Bates-Diop of the Illinois Wolves in the Nike Spring Showdown.
"He was definitely the better of the two players in that game, no doubt about it," Wynn said of Happ, who finished with around 30 points.
Wynn also said he's "never seen a kid with better hands on loose balls, as a really good passer, and finishing real well in traffic." And you know Happ fits the academic profile at Wisconsin when he drops the word "alleviate" in the same interview with the local Quad Cities press:
"It really helps that I played point guard up until my sophomore year," Happ said. "When our team’s getting pressured, I can help alleviate that. It helps in the open floor, with passing and dribbling skills."
In addition to experiencing the kind of growth spurt that propelled Leuer and Kaminsky, Happ (who was only 5'9" in 8th grade) appears next in a line of players identified early and offered by Ryan's coaching staff before many schools had a clue -- recent examples being Mycheal Henry, Sam Dekker and Semi Ojeleye. The general consensus is that Happ could have waited for the offers to roll in over the next few months. The verbal got early kudos from ESPN recruiting guru Dave Telep.
The fact that Happ snapped up the offer right away reminds some of Dekker's story. However, taking verbals before the start of a prospect's junior season has been a mixed bag for Ryan. Only time will tell if Happ winds up like Dekker or more like Evan Anderson, Vander Blue, Devon Hodges, or J.P. Gavinski.
Take a look for yourself here if you care to watch him play an entire AAU game. Bonus points if you watch until the 57-minute mark when an opponent takes a swing at Happ to start the third quarter.
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