The reports are in and they are unanimous: Frank Kaminsky is going to be the most improved player in the universe.
Well, okay, maybe not. But the observers who got their first opportunity to watch the Wisconsin men's basketball team practice Monday all marveled at the transformation in Kaminsky's body. The 6'11" sophomore flashed major potential in 35 games as a freshman, logging 7.7 minutes per game. Apparently he is looking leaner, more mobile, even graceful to ESPN Wisconsin's Tom Lea.
I'll let the Wisconsin State Journal's Jim Polzin take it from here:
...you have to see Kaminsky in person to fully appreciate how leaner he looks since his freshman season ended in March. Kaminsky could afford to put on some muscle on his upper body, but that will come in time. Players often make big jumps from their freshman to sophomore seasons and I expect the same to hold true for Kaminsky. He should be a big factor off the bench this season for the Badgers.
The growing consensus is that junior Josh Gasser will likely open the season as Bo Ryan's next point guard. Jeff Potrykus of the Mikwaukee Journal-Sentinel came out and said as much. I believe the Badgers will be in good hands, even if Gasser is the "safe" choice over redshirt freshman George Marshall. If pressed to name the starters, I would guess Gasser, Ben Brust, Sam Dekker (due to Mike Bruesewitz's injury), Ryan Evans, and Jared Berggren to start the season. Perhaps Marshall could still crack the starting rotation down the line, but he needs to get some real game experience under his belt.
Gasser has that experience. And with Wisconsin in dire need of offense since the departure of Jordan Taylor, getting the ball to skilled players like Berggren inside is a need. Which is why this tidbit from Lea jumped out at me:
I liked the chemistry I saw between Gasser and Berggren. Gasser, running the point on several different occasions, seemed comfortable and confident getting the ball to Berggren on the low block, especially with his nifty one handed bounce pass assist for an easy layup. It’s always important for the point guard and big man to have solid chemistry, so that should be something to be excited about.
Potrykus was impressed enough to declare UW will finish among the Big Ten's top three teams this season.
Another item that stood out to all three writers was Wisconsin's work on breaking the press. It's become an annual rite of autumn to joke about the Badgers pressing opponents like Ryan's old Platteville Pioneers did, but still no indication that this is anything more that a pipe dream.
One final note worth pointing out from Lea's detailed report concerns Dekker. Ryan's prized freshman made some big plays but also struggled with turnovers for a spell. However, he doesn't shy away from contact. Dekker's battles with a fifth-year senior were a highlight:
Watching Evans and Dekker battle in the post is pretty fun. I like the physicality Dekker plays with. The biggest thing young players need to do in order to see playing time under Bo Ryan is to defend with tenacity. It seemed as though Dekker, though it was just one 35-minute portion of practice, did a nice job of that.
Wisconsin hosts its own local basketball media day this afternoon, beginning with Bo Ryan's press conference at 3:45 p.m. Bucky's 5th Quarter will have a photographer on the scene to grab pictures of this year's squad.
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