Zak Showalter makes decision to redshirt

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The back end of UW's crowded guard rotation is a little clearer after the walk-on guard chooses to sit out this season. Anticipation is also building for a big recruiting decision later this week.

Sophomore Zak Showalter informed Bo Ryan on Monday of his decision to redshirt this season, via the Wisconsin State Journal.

"Coach has always respected guys that play hard and do the little things," Showalter said. "But I also want to be more reliable at the skilled part of basketball, so that's what I’m working on."

Showalter also knows he can play a valuable role on UW's scout team even without appearing in games.

"Now my main goal is to get (Brust) ready to play his (butt) off every day in practice, because that's probably who I'll be matched up with the most."

A redshirt season is not surprising for Showalter, as he was thought to be a good candidate last season before Josh Gasser went down with a severe knee injury in the preseason. Showalter ended up playing in 22 games as a true freshman. The Germantown native averaged 15.5 minutes per game during a key four-game stretch toward the end of the non-conference slate as UW was transitioning point guards. But minutes were scarce during league play, as Showalter settled in as the ninth or 10th player in Bo Ryan's typical eight-man rotation. He averaged just under seven minutes per game overall, with highs of eight points and three rebounds against Green Bay.

With the return of Gasser, playing time would have been hard to come by for Showalter, who returned to walk-on status this season after earning a one-year scholarship last season. In addition to Gasser, three other guards return with starting experience under Ryan: Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and George Marshall. Wisconsin also welcomed in highly touted freshman guard Bronson Koenig of La Crosse.

Showalter has never been shy about saying he will do whatever the program needs him to do, but as always, this was his decision. A smart one for him personally, but in the long run, taking the redshirt should benefit both parties.

By not wasting this season on the bench, Showalter is hoping to rustle up more playing time in the future when he is more equipped to take advantage of it.

The kid's athleticism and energy have always been high-end. His aggressiveness leads to a high rate of offensive rebounds and steals, yet also produces negative plays like turnovers and unnecessary fouls. Taking an extra year to work on these things will result in Showalter being more valuable to Wisconsin next year, as well as three years down the road when he is a redshirt senior.

Until we hear otherwise, Showalter is still a walk-on, too, so the move doesn't tie up a scholarship that could have been used on another player.

Will there be another redshirt?

With Showalter's path now laid out, there could be other dominoes to fall when it comes to redshirting. Because both freshman big men appear ready to contribute right away, it is more likely that a second redshirt would also come from the backcourt.

Will not redshirt:

Starting guards: Brust, Gasser, Jackson

First off the bench: Marshall

Possible redshirts:

Freshmen: Bronson Koenig, Jordan Hill, Riley Dearring

While Koenig might be the most valuable frosh to keep around for an extra year, he also is the most physically and mentally ready to help out this season as a fifth guard (especially if an injury occurs). Therefore, it is unlikely he'd redshirt. Dearring is still rail thin and could use a year of college conditioning to get him ready. Hill has already done a post-graduate year at Exeter Academy, making him the real wild card.

Expect both Dearring and Hill to seriously consider taking a redshirt.

Looney decision set for Halloween

You want to talk about trick or treat? Consider how the Badgers are feeling this week knowing that high school superstar Kevon Looney of Milwaukee Hamilton plans to announce his college selection Oct. 31. The 6'9" Looney averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks as a junior and then continued to dominate this summer with his AAU team.

Looney's family has kept his recruitment very much in check, meaning there isn't a lot of information leaking out regarding his future destination. Still, the consensus seems to be that Looney will choose Duke over Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan State and UCLA.

Bo Ryan and his staff have recruited Looney, a five-star forward ranked 13th in the 2014 class, as hard as any player in recent memory. It reminds me of how Ryan stepped up his visibility at AAU events a few years back (not enough, apparently) to try to convince J.P. Tokoto to pick UW over North Carolina. Badger247's Evan Flood indicated last month that Wisconsin had made a great push for Looney throughout September by promoting the opportunity to be a home-state hero, but it may not be enough to overcome Duke's allure or sentimental favorite Tennessee, where Looney's dad is from. Wisconsin hosted Looney for an unofficial visit Aug. 18, then he took his five official visits to other schools over the last two months.

Regardless, Wisconsin has made up a ton of ground after being written off in this recruitment and is all-in on Looney, who would complete its 2014 class. The Badgers will likely bank the scholarship until 2015 if he goes elsewhere. Who knows, maybe it will go back to Showalter for another year.

Join me in hoping for a surprising treat on Thursday, rather than a trick.

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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