Fresh off of a Final Four run, Bo Ryan and his crew are on the recruiting trail looking to spin their on-court success into success off the hardwood. They're pursing like mad men for 5-star recruits like Diamond Stone and Henry Ellenson, looking to hold off other schools for Josh Sharma, and searching for under the radar gems. So far, it's been a mixed bag, as Wisconsin only has one commit in Brevin Pritzl, and doesn't appear to be where they want to be with the blue-chippers.
First, let's talk Pritzl, the one man who we KNOW will be a part of the 2015 class. He's a 6'3" sharpshooter who can stand on the wing and shoot the hell out of it. Take a quick look:
Pritzl looks like an improved athlete, if you watch this video and then watch one from early 2013. Being 6'3" and being able to dunk like the one you saw at the beginning of the video, in warmups, is pretty cool. His athleticism is only a complement to his best attribute: his shooting.
He has nice form, a quick release, and clearly has a LOT of confidence in his shot. Pritzl knocks down shots like you see in this video in any other video you'll see of him, and if you've had a chance to read Evan Flood's write-ups on 247sports, you'd know that yes, he does do this all the time. Flood has many times referred to Pritzl has being one of the nation's best sharpshooters.
From Host Madison, some numbers that Pritzl has been putting up lately:
Pritzl, who averaged 20.9 points as a junior for the Redbirds this past season, produced back-to-back 27-point performances in his final two games of an AAU tournament in the Minneapolis area in late April and followed that up with 41 and 37 points in consecutive games at a tournament in early May in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
That's pretty crazy. We know he can fill it up, and Bo Ryan and his staff will develop the rest of Pritzl's game. Right now, you could say he's in the mold of a Rasheed Sulaimon. Or for a Badger-to-Badger comparison, Ben Brust is a nice natural comparison.
Who Else Will Join Pritzl In 2015?
Tough to say.
Josh Sharma looks like a good bet as of now. Wisconsin was his leader at one point, and even as he's started to really pick up offers (including the champion UConn Huskies) the Badgers look to be in a great position. As much as everyone wants Stone and/or Ellenson, Sharma shouldn't be looked at as a consolation prize if UW misses on the blue-chippers.
Sharma was evaluated and got an early offer from Wisconsin (hard to do), he's a Top 75 recruit nationally, has a strong offer list including UConn, Illinois, Oklahoma State, BC and others, and clearly has some skill for being a 7 foot freak.
He's incredibly tall and long, and has nice mobility and bounce to go with his frame. Tough to tell his skill level from videos like this, but from reading up a bit it seems he has basic skills and nice touch, but like any other high school big man needs to work hard to add skill and polish to his offensive game. He also needs to eat, sleep, and even do his homework in the weight room to put on some pounds.
Next Up, The Potential Gem Of The Class
Diamond Stone, the potential gem. Not funny, whatever, but Stone is the real deal. He's kept his recruitment close to his vest, but being an in-state kid, having relationship ties to Bo Ryan and the Badgers, and Wisconsin's persistent pursuit of him will give them a shot. Further encouraging, the 247sports Crystall Ball has 22% of the 23 predictions tabbing Stone to Madison.
If Wisconsin eventually lands Stone, who are they really getting? They're getting a 6'10" 245 pound post player with length, athleticism, a near-complete post game, and an improving jumpshot. Stone would slide immediately into the starting lineup as the starting center, and likely put up double doubles on the regular.
Words from Scout.com's Evan Daniels, per SI.com:
"He's probably the best high-school post scorer we've seen since DeMarcus Cousins," said Evan Daniels of Scout.com, which has Stone ranked as the No. 1 overall player in the 2015 class. "He's just polished on the offensive end. He's not physically dominant yet, but he has terrific hands, great touch, he can hit hooks over both shoulders, he has counter moves, and he can step out and hit jump shots."
Daniels said that he had previously called Duke-bound center Jahlil Okafor, the top-ranked player in the high school class of 2014, the best post scorer since Cousins. But Daniels, who's been tracking Stone since his freshman year of high school, said that he'd begun to flash a more advanced -- albeit less bullish -- skill set than the soon-to-be-Blue Devil.
BIG praise for Stone.
How crazy would Wisconsin's inside-outside game be with Stone on the block, and Koenig, Pritzl, (possibly) Dekker, Happ, and others on the perimeter? And Nigel Hayes cutting through the lane. AH, the possibilities.
The video following is one of Stone going against Ellenson, who I'll get to in a second. You can see just in the first 3 and a half minutes that Stone has a smooth back-to-basket game. He can go over either shoulder to hook it, he can put it on the floor, he utilizes pump fakes, and of course his sheer size and length allows him to overpower or shoot over defenders.
Keeping It Cool With Henry Ellenson
Since 6 months ago, when we all though Ellenson was almost certain to end up with Wisconsin, things just aren't the same. He has BLOWN THE F*CK UP on the recruiting trail, and is now a Top 15 national prospect with offers from almost everyone.
Kentucky? Check, as of July 13th.
Duke's bitter rival, The Tar Heels? Yup, they offered.
Tom Izzo? He wants Ellenson.
Marquette? Of Course they want him, but they play in a noname conference with an unproven coach and wait a minute...
Marquette could be leading for Ellenson right now, as the 247 tea leaves say 70% to Marquette. This could be assuming that his brother Wally (plays at Marquette) has some pull factor, but it's fair to assume that. Plus, Ellenson was very interested in Duke even before Steve Woj left an assistant job to be the Head Coach for the Golden Eagles.
Wisconsin likely still has a shot, as they're an instate school fresh off a Final Four run and an offense that is a perfect fit for Ellenson. Nothing has indicated that Ellenson has made a decision, or that UW isn't in the running, so unless we hear anything about that or the staff stops recuiting him (they're still going HAM for Ellenson's verbal right now) let's assume Wisconsin is at least in his Top 5 with a realistic shot at getting him.
The Point Guard Of The Future, Jarvis Johnson
I'll say it right now, this one needs to happen. In football, Wisconsin hasn't lost a recruit to Minnesota that they actually (besides Gaelin Elmore, and reports say their relationship soured beforehand anyways) in a long time. I'm not saying it the should be the same time of trail domination in basketball, but you would hope UW can make this one happen.
But then there's still Michigan State, who took a while to offer compared to the Badgers but will give them a run for their money to get Johnson. Hopefully it means something to Johnson that he's been the #1 and only on the Badgers' board since day one, but we'll see.
I feel like this one needs to happen. Wisconsin theoretically could miss on point guards in 2015 and wait for Pritchard in '16, but Pritchard is far from a guarantee, and that would leave a lot of time between their last true PG recruit (Koenig 2013) and their latest (Pritchard 2016).
Who Is The Man At Small Forward?
There's a lot of options at small forward, and they all have slightly different skillsets. Wampler looks like the best fit on paper, being a Wisconsin kid with great shooting talent, and decent athleticism as well.
Kipper Nichols is the guy I'm personally leaning towards. He has a solid looking frame at 6'6", plays strong, and has nice bounce to his game. He projects as a small forward, but could also end up as a slightly undersized Power Forward like Ryan Evans was. The guy I want to compare Nichols to is Chane Behanan, although he doesn't have that type of pure athletic ability. But chances are, he ends up playing Small Foward, especially if his shot keeps getting better.
The answer could also be Esa Ahmad. Ahmad is thought to be a OSU lean, but he's has an offer for months without committing, plus they have 4 committed already and are pursuing others. Ahmad is a 6'7" combo forward who will be able to play either position at the next level.
All of these guys look like decent options, and it'll be interesting to see if one separates himself from the pack, and who the Badgers eventually decide to pull the trigger on.
Ultimately, What Will the 2015 Class Look Like?
Jarvis Johnson Some think it's a 2-horse race with MSU still in the mix but just behind. Minnesota just picked up a higher rated point guard, while Wisconsin has tabbed J.J. "the guy" since they offered over a year ago.
Brevin Pritzl He's committed and nothing is changing here. Pritzl is a Badger.
Esa Ahmad I don't think he'll be a take for the Buckeyes, leaving his recruitment open a little. He has a good relationship with Wisconsin and an official visit could seal the deal here.
Josh Sharma Things aren't looking as solid as they once did, but still Sharma I think ends up playing his college ball in Madison.
A very nice class following a Final Four appearance, with three Top 100 players and a 3/4 star true point guard in Johnson.