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Wisconsin basketball recruiting: what to do about the 2021 recruiting class

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Should the Badgers add one more player? Should they roll the scholarship over to 2022?

NCAA Basketball: Western Kentucky at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to basketball recruiting, Greg Gard and the Wisconsin Badgers don’t make offers lightly. While they have sometimes struggled to get their “Plan A” guys and subsequently don’t get their “Plan B” guys due to the All Their Eggs In One Basket theorem, the past couple of classes UW has done far better at identifying who to go after and who to offer.

The 2020 class, who fill be freshman this coming year, came together nicely for Gard and the 2021 class has the potential to be even better. The only thing that is slowing down the ‘21 class being named “the best ever at Wisconsin” is what to do with the last spot in it. Currently the Badgers have 4-star PG Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue, Neb.), 4-star stretch forward Matthew Mors (Yankton, S.D.) and 4-star post player Chris Hodges (Schaumburg, Ill.) verbally committed and the one thing missing is a sniper from the wing.

Wisconsin was a finalist for 3-star SG Julian Roper (West Bloomfield, Mich.) but he chose Northwestern and had been recruiting 4-star SG Louis Lesmond (Evanston, Ill.) for a while, eventually offering at the beginning of June, but he chose Harvard.

At least we know that neither of these guys didn’t choose the Badgers because of the dreaded #reasons.

So...now what?

After Roper spurned the Badgers we listed off some potential targets for offers in the post linked above, with Lesmond being one of them, and now that the Badgers missed again on a shooter what should they do? It isn’t imperative that they use the scholarship in the 2021 class and if you look at the scholarship grid from Phil, you’ll see why.

Scholarship Grid

2021-22 2022-23 2023-24 2024-25 2024-25 2025-26
2021-22 2022-23 2023-24 2024-25 2024-25 2025-26
Chris Vogt Tyler Wahl Johnny Davis Lorne Bowman Chris Hodges* ((open))
Tyler Wahl Jahcobi Neath Jordan Davis Chucky Hepburn Matthew Mors* ((open))
Jahcobi Neath Johnny Davis Steven Crowl Markus Ilver Connor Essegian ((open))
Johnny Davis Jordan Davis Ben Carlson Chris Hodges* ((open)) ((open))
Jordan Davis Steven Crowl Carter Gilmore Matthew Mors* ((open)) ((open))
Steven Crowl Ben Carlson Lorne Bowman Connor Essegian ((open)) ((open))
Ben Carlson Carter Gilmore Chucky Hepburn ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Carter Gilmore Lorne Bowman Markus Ilver ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Lorne Bowman Chucky Hepburn Chris Hodges* ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Chris Hodges Markus Ilver Matthew Mors* ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Chucky Hepburn Chris Hodges* Connor Essegian ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Matthew Mors Matthew Mors* ((open)) ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Markus Ilver Connor Essegian ((open)) ((open)) ((open)) ((open))
Brad Davison^
Legend:
*used redshirt #1yr scholarship midseason transfer ^exempt scholarship
Wisconsin Basketball Scholarship Grid Phil Mitten

There are two straight years where the Badgers don’t lose anybody from the roster, unless someone transfers or goes pro. The grid also doesn’t include 2020 PWO Carter Gilmore who may be in line for scholarship down the road. Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot of room for any new players in the rotation for 2021/22 and 2022/23.

This is a good thing.

This means that the Badgers can be picky and don’t necessarily have to throw an offer at a player just to throw an offer at him. Wisconsin has already offered Isaiah Barnes (Oak Park, Ill.) and here’s what we said about him:

Isaiah Barnes

3-star by 247 Composite (3-star by Rivals); 6-foot-6, 180 pounds; SG/SF; Oak Park, Ill.; River Forest High School; offers from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, TCU, Michigan, Georgia and Iowa State among others

Since Wisconsin offered a few weeks ago, Iowa State, Georgia and Michigan have all offered Barnes and his recruitment seems to be trending upwards at a rapid rate. The Badgers are neither Barnes’ first nor best offer so they’ll be in a dogfight to get him to commit. Assistant coach Alando Tucker is from under an hour away from Barnes’ hometown and could help in his recruitment. Barnes will also play on the same AAU team, the Illinois Wolves, as Hodges.

The more intriguing player, in terms of potentially committing to Wisconsin because I don’t think Barnes will, is Max Hrdlicka (Brunswick, Ga.). Here is what we said about him a few weeks ago and Wisconsin’s interest has only increased since then.

Max Hrdlicka

Unranked by 247 Composite; 6-foot-6, 195 pounds; SG; Brunswick, Ga.; Glynn Academy; offer from North Florida; interest from Davidson, Stanford, Georgia, Penn, VMI and Navy

Hrdlicka is a name in the 2021 class that has come out of nowhere but has been mentioned by both 247 and Rivals in the past day as someone that the Badgers are interested in.

Hrdlicka’s tape is basically the same as Schutt’s. He too is hyper-athletic and can bomb away from deep. In my expert opinion, Hrdlicka looks like a better rebounder and ball handler and also had a couple of defensive highlights in there which is always nice.

If we go by the always rock solid strategy of looking at who Greg Gard followed on Twitter recently, we’ll notice that he just followed Hrdlicka’s parents, Angela and Robert, and some basketball account that is local to the Hrdlicka’s. We also know that Hrdlicka had or is having a virtual visit sometime recently/soon. So, clearly the heat is being turned up on him.

Hrdlicka’s AAU team also played in a tournament last weekend in Florida, which they won, and he has a new highlight clip which showcases his athleticism and shooting.

Will Hrdlicka get an offer? It’s hard to say, but I’d wager he will. If he doesn’t and Gard decides to roll over the scholarship to the 2022 class, things will look more balanced on the scholarship grid, but is that the right call? I like this Hrdlicka kid and think that he would bring an element that the Badgers don’t always have: a bouncy, athletic wing that can shoot (Johnny Davis is also this type of player). As always, we’ll keep you posted on what is happening once we hear anything.