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Wisconsin basketball 2014 exit interviews: Frank Kaminsky

Let's begin our look back at the Badgers' first Final Four run since 2000 with the key breakout performer of the year, Frank Kaminsky.

Jeff Gross

In his first two seasons at Wisconsin, Frank Kaminsky averaged nine minutes and three points per game. 38 games later, he became a NCAA tournament darling and household name. How did that happen? In retrospect, there were a few flashes during his sophomore year. 16 points in 12 minutes against Samford, including 4-of-4 shooting from the three-point line; a pair of timely treys against second-ranked Indiana and the 19 points in 23 minutes against Illinois.

Even after the school-record 43 points against North Dakota early in the season, it seemed more like lightning-in-a-bottle game, not an indication of things to come. But oh, how wonderfully wrong that notion was. Starting with back-to-back conference road games against Michigan and Iowa, Kaminksy helped propel the Badgers to the deep tournament that eluded them for so long.

Kaminsky’s offensive game epitomizes the Bo Ryan offensive philosophy. At 7 feet tall, he is equally comfortable scoring in the paint or knocking down outside shots. Against Oregon, Kaminsky was able to use his size and length on the inside. In the Sweet 16 vs. Baylor, his passing and floor spacing devastated the Baylor zone and thoroughly frustrated the Bears' future potential lottery pick, Isaiah Austin.

The crowning moment, though, was the Elite Eight matchup against Arizona. Kaminsky's footwork and patience in the post was on full display against another set of future NBA players in Kaleb Tarczwski and Aaron Gordon. Kaminsky was so dominant, Charles Barkley opined during halftime of the game that Kaminsky should be the Badgers' first, second and third options on offense.

Frank Kaminsky's Best Games of 2013-14
N. Dakota W 103-85 16-19 6-6 5-6 3 0 0 43
at Mich. W 75-62 11-16 1-2 2-3 11 0 1 25
at Iowa W 79-74 8-13 0-0 5-6 7 2 3 21
Mich. St. L 75-83 19-16 2-5 8-8 2 1 1 28
Baylor W 69-52 8-11 0-0 3-4 4 3 6 19
Arizona W 64-63 11-20 3-5 3-4 11 1 0 28

In addition to showcasing his offensive wares, Kaminsky also emerged as a solid defender and rim-protector. He tallied 66 blocks on the year and is a scant 49 away from surpassing Wisconsin's all-time blocks leader, Jared Berggren. Having to replace three frontcourt players from the previous season, the Badgers entered 2013-2014 with a largely unproven post defense. Kaminsky helped solidify the interior and found a way to affect games without scoring.

Looking ahead

Many expected Kaminsky to cash in on the momentum of his NCAA tournament success and tackle the challenges of the NBA. But once again he surprised, providing a glimpse into some of his reasoning for returning to UW Thursday on his blog, The Moose Basketball:

I am at the pinnacle of my basketball playing career, at least in my eyes. I know the NBA has their crazy fans and all, but if you look at all of their games, there are games when teams get hardly any fans, and it looks flat out boring. At the Kohl Center, we play in front of nearly 17,000 fans every single time we step onto the court.

Basically, he loves college and playing at the Kohl Center -- don't let him down next year, Grateful Red!

Kaminsky will enter next season as a pre-season favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year. As a team, the Badgers will be favorites to win the conference and seize a top-10 national ranking. Juggling team expectations while bolstering his NBA draft stock will be a challenge, but Kaminsky has shown the ability to provide whatever is needed in order for his team to win, whether scoring, spacing the floor as a decoy or defending. After a glimpse of success on the national stage, Kaminsky and the Badgers are situated to vault the program to even higher heights in 2014-2015.