When I first discovered sports message boards years ago, it was basketball recruiting that led me there. Someone told me Wisconsin was recruiting a British kid from North Carolina named Paul Guede who was going to be the next big thing. Upon asking my friend where on earth he'd heard of this guy, my eyes were opened to a new way to waste hours and hours of time online.
Sheepishly I'll admit, I was hooked.
The 6-foot-5 Guede, of course, did not sign with the Badgers and did not turn into anyone's superstar. Instead, Guede split time between Valporaiso, Portland State and junior college. He joined countless others who have been rumored to be headed to Wisconsin to play basketball over the years, a routine that repeats for every college basketball program in the country.
If you follow recruiting like I do, you might remember the names of prospects the Badgers did legitimately pursue and wonder what happened to them. Occasionally, I will be reminded of such players when they visit the Kohl Center on opposing teams' benches or at tournament time if they show up on a SportsCenter highlight.
Which of those players have fared the best away from Wisconsin? And is there anything to regret on UW's end?
Going all the way back to the class of 2008, I present the 2012-13 Coulda-Been-a-Badger All-Americans.*
Nnanna Egwu, C, Illinois
6-11, 235 lb. sophomore
Jamil Wilson, F, Marquette
6-7, 225 lb. RS junior
Rodney Williams, F, Minnesota
6-7, 200 lb. senior
Vander Blue, G, Marquette
6-4, 200 lb. junior
Chasson Randle, G, Stanford
6-1, 180 lb. sophomore
Wisconsin went hard after all of these players for a time, particularly Egwu, Randle and Blue. After Egwu chose the Illini, Wisconsin grabbed Frank Kaminsky in 2011, which could be a push over time. Randle had a fantastic freshman year for Stanford a year ago, while Blue has blossomed as junior. The one-time Badger commit led Marquette in minutes and points this season while earning second-team All-Big East honors. His last-second heroics on a slashing drive propelled the Golden Eagles past upset-minded Davidson on the NCAA tournament's opening weekend, and he also scored 19 of his 29 points in the second half to help beat Butler and advance to the Sweet 16. Those who chuckled about how Blue made a mistake and was languishing at Marquette are probably a bit quieter these days.
The Badgers were playing from behind with Royce White and Williams, who had ground to make up academically, out of Minnesota in Mike Bruesewitz's class (2009). Wilson was the prize in-state that year, but it became clear he'd head out of state -- Wilson signed with
Nike Oregon before transferring home.
Scott Suggs, G, Washington
6-6, 195 lb. RS senior
Joseph Bertrand, G, Illinois
6-5, 195 lb. RS junior
Grant Gibbs, G, Creighton
6-5, 210 lb. RS senior
Lenzelle Smith Jr., G, Ohio State
6-4, 210 lb. junior
Eron Harris, G, West Virginia
6-2, 190 lb. freshman
Yup, all guards. And most of them fall under the category of players Wisconsin wasn't all that close to landing. The exception would be Harris, who had UW as his top choice before the coaching staff cooled on him. The Badgers were scouting Harris as a late addition to the 2012 class for his smooth shooting stroke and potential to be a perimeter defender down the road. Harris had a surprising rookie campaign for a bad Bob Huggins team in Morgantown, earning honorable mention accolades in the Big East.
Adam Woodbury, C, Iowa
7-1, 235 lb. freshman
Sheldon Jeter, F, Vanderbilt
6-7, 215 lb. freshman
Trent Lockett, G/F, Marquette
6-5, 210 lb. senior
Cameron Wright, G, Pittsburgh
6-4, 205 lb. junior
Damarcus Harrison, G, Clemson
6-4, 195 lb. sophomore
Jeter and Wright stand out in this group. Another very real possibility for the second 2012 scholarship that eventually went to Zak Showalter, Jeter started seven games as a frosh this year and played in all 33 for Vandy. In the initial scramble after Blue's decommitment, Wisconsin locked onto former Ohio State commit Wright. When Wright went east, the Badgers quickly offered Josh Gasser and the rest is history. Wright started 10 games for Pitt as a sophomore, but has yet to make a real impact.
*The extent to which these players were "close" to being a Badger obviously varies
* * *
Think back now ... where were the gaps on this year's Badger roster? Here's a simplified list.
- Experienced, careful point guard
- Quick perimeter defender
- Efficient inside scorer
As you can see, not all of these problems could be solved by simply swapping out for players on this list. Blue's ability to slash to the hoop and defend would have been a welcome addition to be sure. Someone who could have finished better near the bucket, say on alley-oops, than Ryan Evans (ie: Williams) would have come in handy, too. Randle has been more of a combo guard for Stanford, so it's not clear he would have been a season-altering floor general for Bo Ryan.
Though the Badgers defended superbly throughout the season, no one had quite the right blend of size and quickness to stop players like Joe Harris, Jermaine Marshall, Aaron White, D.J. Byrd, and Marshall Henderson at times. That is where a Joe Bertrand or Lenzelle Smith would have been valuable.
Or, you know, Gasser.
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