A glimpse ahead: Who's next for Wisconsin basketball in 2014-15

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

Which new faces will make an impact on the 2014-15 season? Don't forget those redshirts.

Senior Ben Brust is the only departing player who will free up a scholarship for Wisconsin this spring, meaning the cast of characters you see on the Kohl Center floor next season will look very similar to this year's.

Due to a flurry of redshirts in the 2010 class, Wisconsin had just one opening for most of the 2014 recruiting cycle. So in all likelihood there will only be one completely new face for the 2014-15 season. However, a pair of redshirted players will be ready to throw their hat into the ring for playing time as well.

Because Wisconsin already added a pair of impact freshmen (Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig) in the 2013 class, newcomers to the rotation will be trying to fill roles more so than being a leading man.

Ethan Happ (6'8" Freshman) - Class of 2014

The Badgers hope to have struck oil again with another well-rounded, skilled forward in Ethan Happ out of Rockridge (Ill.) High School. The 6'8" Happ just finished his senior season as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,800 points, putting up 29 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks for the previously unbeaten Rockets (28-1) in a sectional final loss.

Touted as "the next Sam Dekker" by some around the time of his commitment almost two years ago, Happ has added weight to his frame and will come in with more strength, toughness and rebounding acumen than Dekker, which has helped those unfair comparisons fade away. Happ has a nice handle and has developed into a Mr. Basketball candidate despite playing at one of Illinois' smallest schools.

Happ will play a big role in UW's future, the question is how early?

Next season, Wisconsin will have four experienced forwards returning from this year's rotation, so there is no real need for Happ to step in right away and contribute as a freshman. With that said, if Happ can continue to add muscle to his frame once he hits campus, there is an opportunity for him to compete with rising sophomore Vitto Brown for minutes in the frontcourt.

The Badgers have been a bit limited in the paint this season by their lack of depth -- another athletic rebounder/defender/dunker would come in handy, whomever it ends up filling that role. Happ definitely has a shot.

Riley Dearring (6'5" RS Freshman) - Class of 2013

For all practical purposes, Riley Dearring will likely join Happ in the 2014 class, along with walk-on redshirt freshman Aaron Moesch. Dearring stepped on campus as a string bean shooting guard this summer and eagerly awaits his first opportunity on-court this coming fall.

With the graduation of Brust, Wisconsin will have an immediate opening for another dead-eye shooter on the perimeter. Dearring brings just that. A known commodity on the Minnesota high school hoops scene since eighth grade, Dearring also impressed scouts with his shooting ability on the AAU circuit, which ultimately led to his offer form the Badgers.

A few factors will determine how much Dearring can play in his second season with the program. One factor, common to all young players under Bo Ryan, is defense. However, Dearring showed signs of his defensive potential this past summer on the exhibition tour through Canada. His length will help in that area.

Secondly, Dearring will have to display a good enough shooting touch to steal minutes from guys like Duje Dukan and Zak Showalter off the bench.

The third consideration will be Dearring's health. He has already had problems with his left knee on more than one occasion during his redshirt year, and hopeful that will clear up to the point it is not a concern over his career at Wisconsin.

Zak Showalter (6'2" RS Sophomore) - Class of 2012

In 2014-15, Zak Showalter will be a redshirt sophomore and probably the most likely of any player on this list to see extended playing time next season. If for no other reason because he's already been there before.

As a true freshman a year ago, Showalter used pure hustle to force his way into 22 game appearances. In fact, this coach's son averaged 19 minutes-per-game (scoring 22 points total) in a highly efficient four-game stretch against legit competition in December of 2012.

Showalter has carved his own unique path in a short time at Wisconsin. In the span of just two seasons he went from a walk-on player to being awarded a one-year scholarship, back to walk-on and to a redshirt. Like Dearring, Showalter sensed the crowded, experienced backcourt in Madison this season and took the redshirt to refine his shot and add more nuances to his existing run-and-jump game.

Ryan already trusts Showalter's defensive effort, which might give him a leg up in the competition for the fourth guard spot next year. Two other areas in which Showalter fits a gap on the roster is his nose for the offensive glass and his penchant for creating steals. His rates in both categories would have placed him first on the team last season had he logged enough minutes. But Showalter cannot be a liability on offense, which was part of the problem limiting Showalter to eight DNPs in Big Ten play as a frosh.

In the end, if Showalter shows enough improvement he might earn himself another year on scholarship if his season in the shadows paid dividends.

* * *

In the 2015 recruiting cycle, Wisconsin needs a bit of everything to replenish its talent base. But the Badgers will again focus on bringing in size -- specifically a true center. Luckily, the 2015 class includes a pair of potential centerpiece big men within the state's borders. Diamond Stone (No. 5 overall) and Henry Ellenson (No. 48) have both been heavily courted for several years now. Getting either one would be great; missing both would be disappointing despite some decent backup options.

In all, the coaching staff has six total scholarships to work with, but has not handed out many offers yet. Most likely Ryan will seek out his next point guard in this class too. Minnesota's Jarvis Johnson has gotten the most attention so far, but guys like Roosevelt Smart and Josh Sharma are also on UW's radar thus far.

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