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Wisconsin basketball: top ten players of the decade

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No. 1 on the list seems fairly obvious, but what about the rest of the lineup?

Arizona v Wisconsin Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

With the end of the decade coming up in a few short weeks we here at Bucky’s 5th Quarter were getting nostalgic about the passing of time and all that nonsense so we wanted to make a bunch of lists that may or may not make people mad online.

It’s a tale as old as time tbqh.

So, here is one of a handful of lists we’ll be debuting leading up to the end of the decade. For our purposes we will be starting with the basketball team from the 2010-2011 season. For this list, we’ll only be counting seasons that occurred during the time frame of the actual decade.

Today’s list: the top-10 men’s basketball players of the decade!

No. 10: Jon Leuer, 2010

Wisconsin v Belmont Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Leuer had a notable career at Wisconsin, but for this exercise we are only counting his senior year. Luckily, that happened to be his best one! In 2010-2011, Leuer led the Badgers with 18.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg and added 1.6 apg and 0.9 bpg. His 621 points that he scored that season were the third most in Wisconsin history. He earned honorable mention AP All-American status as a senior and was named 2011 first-team All-Big Ten selection (coaches) and second-team All-Big Ten (media).

No. 9: Ben Brust, 2010-2014

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Practice Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As evidenced by the above picture, Brust was one of the greatest dunkers in Wisconsin history, to go along with his superior marksmanship from three. Brust finished his career in Madison as the most prolific three-point shooter in school history, making a school record (since broken, you’ll find out below) 235 triples. He also holds the top two spots in three pointers made in a season (96 his senior year and 79 his junior year). He shot 82.7% from the free throw line for his career (fourth best in UW history) and was named honorable mention all-conference twice.

No. 8: Traevon Jackson, 2011-2015

Duke vs. Wisconsin Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Jackson was a divisive player for the Badgers during his tenure, but an important one nonetheless. I am on record as having...mixed thoughts on Jackson’s career, but I’m finally ready to admit he’s one of the best players of the decade for the Badgers. I am choosing “Good Trae” over “Bad Trae” because it’s almost 2020 and it’s time to leave hate in the past. Jackson’s performance in the 2014 NCAA Tournament was excellent and if he didn’t get hurt in his senior year, leaving him banged up for the march to the title game, things may have gone differently against Duke.

No. 7: Bronson Koenig, 2013-2017

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Wisconsin v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Bronson Koenig finished his career as the program’s three-point king with 270 career three-pointers to surpass former teammate Ben Brust (235), as we foreshadowed above in Brust’s section. Koenig also set a school record by making a triple in 43 straight games. He made second team all-conference in 2017 and third team in 2016 and he helped lead the Badgers all the way to the national title game against Duke after Trae Jackson went down with an injury. In his senior season he averaged a career high 14.5 points per game and it is also worth noting that he finished his time in Madison with 666 rebounds.

No. 6: Josh Gasser, 2010-2015

Arizona v Wisconsin Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Perhaps the “Ultimate Wisconsin Basketball Player” if you asked the fans. Captain America did just about everything right every time he stepped on the court. You needed a big shot hit? Gasser could do that. Take a charge to get the defense fired up? Yeah, he could do that too. Snag a rebound over a much bigger player? Definitely something Gasser could do.

He played a major role in each of his four years playing and sett the marks for career starts (144), games played (148) and total minutes played (4,774) for the Badgers. He joined Michael Finley as the only players in Badgers history to post 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists. He also made the B1G All-Defensive team twice in his career. He finished his career ranked 10th in UW history by shooting 40.2% from three-point range and third in Badgers annals with a 2.25 career assist-to-turnover ratio.

Josh Gasser is the kind of player you always hope is on your team.

No. 5: Jordan Taylor, 2010 -2012

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Vanderbilt v Wisconsin Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Jordan Taylor is probably my second favorite player of the decade, which you’d think would bump him up higher on this list but I’m nothing if not a slave to the facts and so here he sits at No. 5. Taylor, the ninth leading scorer in school history, was named a second-team All American as a junior and an honorable mention All American as a senior. He was also a first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2012 after being a consensus first-team all-conference choice and being named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team in 2011

His junior year he averaged 18.1 ppg, 4.7 apg and 4.1 rpg and shot 42.9% from distance. He was a dynamo with the ball and willed the Badgers to victory on more than one occasion. Taylor set the NCAA record for career assist-to-TO ratio (464 assists, 154 turnovers = 3.01 ratio) and finished his career second in school history in assists. He was just the eighth player in Big Ten history to post 1,500 points, 400 rebounds and 450 assists.

My wife may have loved him for his well-defined arms but his well-defined passing and ball security was just as sexy imo.

No. 4: Sam Dekker, 2012-2015

Ole Miss v Wisconsin Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Sam Dekker’s 2015 NCAA Tournament performance was one for the ages. He was named the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player as he helped the Badgers reach the Final Four for the second straight year. Dekker averaged 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in his junior year and was also named second team All-B1G. With 1,363 points and 569 rebounds, he became just the eighth player in UW history to top 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in only three seasons. Dekker left early for the NBA and was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the first round.

Being an in-state 5-star talent and staying home to go to Wisconsin was a big deal for the Badgers. While we’ve been over, ad nauseam, the fact that in-state recruiting isn’t as big a deal in basketball it’s always nice when you don’t have to travel far to get top-end talent.

No. 3: Nigel Hayes, 2013-2017

Minnesota v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Nigel Hayes is the only player I’d have on my personal “favorite players of the decade” list ahead of Jordan Taylor. Hayes was prolific both on and off the court. He was a quote machine and was probably the most interesting player to come through the program this past decade.

Hayes could do it all on the court he is the only Badger to appear on the school’s top-10 lists for points, rebounds and assists. He became just the second player in B1G history to tally at least 1,800 points, 700 rebounds and 300 assists in his career and was named first-team All-Big Ten (2015 and 2016) and third-team All-Big Ten (2017).

He was named the B1G Sixth Man of the Year in 2014 and was named to the conference all-freshman team too. He is fourth in school history in points with 1,857 and first in school history in tweets about him sent by me stating my love for him.

No. 2: Ethan Happ, 2014-2019

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

What you need to know about Ethan Happ is that for a guy who couldn’t make a jump shot, he still had two (of the three ever in UW history) triple-doubles in his career and is one of three Badgers ever to score more than 2,000 points. He’s the last player to have 15 or more rebounds in a game AND 10 or more assists in a game. He has the most double-doubles in program history. He earned second-team All-American honors in 2019 and third-team in 2017, while also becoming the first three-time, first-team All-Big Ten honoree in school history

Winner of the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pete Newell Awards, Happ is one of six players in NCAA history to accumulate at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 400 assists, joining Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Danny Ferry, Stacey Augmon and John Konchar. He ranked 18th on the Big Ten’s all-time scoring list and third on the career rebounding list too.

Happ started all 139 games his career and owns the Wisconsin school record for rebounds and blocks and ranks among UW’s all-time top three in each of the five major statistically categories: points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

No. 1: Frank Kaminsky, 2011-2015

Wisconsin v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The biggest surprise in Wisconsin basketball history is probably the fact that Frank Kaminsky is the undisputed best player of the last decade for the program. You look at him his freshman year and you do not see this player that he ultimately became: the consensus 2015 National Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky became the first player in UW history to win the Naismith Trophy, the Wooden Award and the Oscar Robertson Trophy as well as earning AP Player of the Year honors.

He led the Badgers in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, FG% and 3FG% as a senior while leading UW to back-to-back Final Fours and the 2015 Big Ten Regular Season and Tournament championships. He was eventually a NBA Lottery pick by the Charlotte Hornets.

Kaminsky holds the single-game scoring record (43 points vs. North Dakota in 2013) and the single season scoring record as well (732 points in 2014-2015). Kaminsky, much like Nigel Hayes, was also an excellent person off the court. He is funny, self-deprecating, clever and smart and the back-to-back Final Four teams were his magnum opus.