Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
It's tourney time at the prep level, which means checking in on Badger basketball recruits. We begin our look with Friday night games in Wisconsin and Illinois.
In the midst of an exciting season on the court, things have been mostly quiet on the recruiting front for Wisconsin. That silence is understandable after the flurry of commitment activity from June to November that wrapped up the 2013 class early.
Despite the lack of recruiting buzz, committed UW recruits have been taking care of business with their teammates this season, improving all the while. Now that March is on deck, a number of players will be eyeing a championship run.
It is only fitting that a discussion about incoming Badger recruits starts with Bronson Koenig. The senior point guard from LaCrosse Aquinas has been committed to Wisconsin for 17 months now, the first and most important domino to fall for Bo Ryan in the 2013 class.
The WIAA playoffs got underway earlier this weekend, but as a No. 1 seed in Division, 3 the Blugolds kick off the process at home Friday night against Bloomer (14-9) after a bye. Aquinas (18-4) finished one game behind Matt Thomas and Onalaska in the Mississippi Valley Conference this year, with Koenig averaging around 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists per contest.
To recap Koenig's season, he came off the bench to score 15 points after missing two games to a suspension and coach's decision to start the season. In his first start, Koenig notched 20 points and 7 assists. He didn't score well in the two games against Onalaska this season, but he did make life difficult for Thomas defensively. Koenig poured in a season-high 30 points against Tomah earlier this month.
Last offseason, Koenig put in a ton of work to improve his vertical and gain strength. He has grown an inch or more since his commitment, as well, and he looks noticeably bigger than before if you haven't caught any highlights lately. The knock on Koenig at times has been that he settles for 3-pointers too often for such a dominant high school player and his demeanor can suggest (right or wrong) that he's not dialed in at all times. Yet Koenig's precision shooting and elite court awareness will make him a great addition from day one in Madison.
With a win Friday, Koenig and Aquinas will play again Saturday against the winner of the 4/5 game at Osseo-Fairchild.
Looking elsewhere, the other notable postseason underway right now is in Illinois.
The Happ-led Rockridge team has been ranked in the top 10 in the state at Illinois' 2A level for most of the year and finished the regular season 21-4. But it wasn't without a little adversity. Happ injured the MCL in his left knee back in December and was expected to miss 2-4 weeks. The 6-foot-8 junior returned triumphantly after two-and-a-half weeks with 27 points on Jan. 2 after his previously undefeated team dropped back-to-back games without him.
Though the team lost another pair recently with Happ back, Rockridge ran away from Mercer County, 75-36, behind Happ's fast start to begin the IHSA playoffs. Happ hit his first five baskets and had 18 of his 24 points by halftime. Oh yeah, I think this kid will fit in fine at Wisconsin:
"We like to bring the defensive intensity, and turn it into offense," said Happ. "That really worked tonight. Mercer County is a tough team, a good team, and we didn't come in here taking them lightly."
The top-seeded Rockets advanced to the Rockridge regional final, set for Friday night in the comfy confines of their own gym against upset-minded Orion. With a victory, Rockridge will continue on to Wednesday's Farmington sectional semis.
Happ was averaging a solid 25 points and 12 rebounds as of January. He's had plenty of highlights. Perhaps most impressive was his opening night stat line: 38 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals to beat Fulton. Happ also sprung for 28/15, 34/9 and 29/20 nights along the way.
None of the other Wisconsin signees have started their playoffs yet. Vitto Brown (Bowling Green) and Nigel Hayes (Toledo Whitmer) start their respective journeys next week in Ohio. The Minnesota tournament does not begin for two more weeks, when Riley Dearring and Minnetonka will be expected to claim a high seed in the 6AAAA section. Jordan Hill will continue with Phillips Exeter Academy in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference tournament at the conclusion of its season.
Stay tuned to B5Q next week for more postseason coverage of Badger recruits.
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