For many players, the numbers and performances Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker put up this year as a sophomore starter would earn an "A."
But Dekker is not your run-of-the-mill sophomore. He's one of the most hyped players to join the Badgers in recent memory. After a standout freshman campaign, many expected this to be the season Dekker became a star in college basketball.
Although this wasn't the year, Dekker still put together a solid sophomore season.
Entering the season, we heard rave reports of Dekker getting to the foul line in practice more than any other player, which was extremely encouraging considering the Badgers lacked a source of penetration from the arc a season ago.
Dekker put on weight and muscle in the offseason leading up to the season-opener against St. John's, and that made him extremely effective in non-conference play. Thanks to his new frame, Dekker became a much more consistent scorer, scoring 10 or more points in 11 of the team's 13 non-conference games.
But as the season went on, Dekker seemingly came and went in terms of impact performances. Although he managed to score double-digits in 29 of the team's 38 games, he never had a definitive game or performance where someone could say, "he's arrived." Whether that was a result of opponents changing their scouting on him, moments of passiveness (see the regular-season finale at Nebraska), tougher competition or the balance of the offense is up for debate.
There were still plenty of highlights. After all, it's not like the starting forward wasn't solid all season. Dekker was named the MVP of the Cancun Challenge, where he posted a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) against West Virginia in the championship game. He had plenty of emphatic, highlight-reel dunks. Dekker also shot close to 33 percent from deep.
And for someone who had previously been a defensive liability as a freshman, Dekker made the improvements necessary to garner a starting role.
Coaches around the Big Ten obviously understood his value and overall strength of his performance during the season, giving Dekker a second-team All-Big Ten nod, while the media gave him third-team honors.
But there were still moments -- even stretches -- when fans wondered where Dekker was on the court. Too many times, Dekker was either denied the drive or shied away from showing even a sign of post presence. His 137 free throw attempts were almost second-to-last for starters, trailing Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson while recording just one attempt above Josh Gasser.
|Sam Dekker's Best Games of 2013-14|
|N. Dakota||W 103-85||8-12||1-2||2-3||5||4||2||19|
|West Virginia||W 70-63||7-14||3-6||4-4||12||1||0||21|
|at Michigan||W 75-62||6-10||2-2||1-2||9||0||1||15|
|at Iowa||W 79-74||6-13||2-6||1-2||11||2||0||15|
Dekker's three-point shooting was also shaky this season; another aspect of his game in need of immediate improvement, which some NBA scouts believe will be what decides his draft stock and future as a pro.
Those aspects on offense left much to be desired. Dekker has the talent to take over a game, but this year was not the year the young player emerged as the star many (including myself) predicted him to be.
Still, I would declare this season a success for Dekker. In his first season as a full-time starter, the sophomore was solid -- but that's it. We're still waiting for him to fulfill the rest of the hype, but I'm not worrying too much, because he's still got plenty of time to become dominant.
As we saw this year with Frank Kaminsky and so many Badgers before him, Bo Ryan players traditionally make their biggest strides between their sophomore and junior seasons. Go ahead, look up the stats of players like Jordan Taylor, Jared Berggren and others in recent memory.
Expect for Dekker to put on more muscle this summer and come out in 2014-15 with a killer's mentality around the rim. Dekker's quickness will enable him to get around defenders in the post, but he'll need increased strength to get deeper position around the block.