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What does 3-star CG John Blackwell bring to the Badgers?

The first commitment in the 2023 class is a solid building block for Wisconsin.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Virginia Tech v Wisconsin Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On Friday, 2023 3-star CG John Blackwell (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) out of Brother Rice High School shut down his recruitment, and committed to UW, before the summer grassroots circuit really kicked off. Wisconsin was the first, and to this point only, Power 5 offer that Blackwell earned and that must have meant a lot to him based on his early commitment.

“I chose Wisconsin because I felt the love from the coaches constantly and I see my game in their play style,” Blackwell told us on Sunday.

Blackwell’s high school team, Brother Rice, has a pair of other high-major talents in his class and while he clearly stood out to Wisconsin early that wasn’t the case for other teams. Head coach Rick Palmer noted in our discussion on Saturday that morning that he “wishes [Blackwell] would be a little more aggressive,” which may have thrown some teams off the scent of a talented player.

That was the only negative thing Palmer had to say about Blackwell’s game which speaks volumes to the kind of player, and person, Blackwell is. “He’s a great kid and a great teammate. He was voted unanimously as our captain as a junior. He’s a pleaser by nature, sometimes to his detriment on the court,” Palmer said.

Assistant coach Sharif Chambliss was the lead recruiter on Blackwell and he clearly had a big influence on the eventual commitment. “[He] had a big role into it because he was constantly checking up on me and making sure everything is good. He kept it real with me throughout this whole process,” Blackwell noted.

When doing some research on Blackwell before talking to his coach, his shooting ability showed up a bunch on Twitter and in other evaluations of him. I was curious as to what else Blackwell brought to the court outside of his improved shooting.

“He’s known as a driver first, shooter second. For his size and athleticism he can really get by ya. He guarded three McDonald’s All Americans in a row down in Orlando (at an AAU tournament last week) and did a great job. He’s get the size and tools to be an elite defender as well,” Palmer gushed.

While admitting that he hadn’t studied Wisconsin’s offense super closely because, well, why would he have done that, Palmer thought Blackwell could fit in with the Badgers as the next in their long line of “bigger guards that can post up.” Another quality that Palmer mentioned struck me as important and valuable too. Blackwell can “score late in the shot clock” which is something that a Wisconsin guard has always needed to do.

Blackwell is usually listed as a “combo guard” when you look at his recruiting profiles are articles written about him, but Palmer mentioned that Blackwell is still learning the point guard position. “He’s learning the point guard position, he has been a two-guard more of his life, and for him it’s to be more aggressive when he’s at the point, he’s too worried about them,” Palmer said. In this instance “them” are Blackwell’s teammates, who he is constantly looking to get involved in the offense.

I’ll be honest...that’s a great problem to have for a future guard at Wisconsin. Teaching someone to be more selfish is way easier than the other way around. With players like Chucky Hepburn and Kamari McGee likely still on the roster when Blackwell enrolls, he probably won’t have to be the floor general right away. However, having multiple play-makers and shot-creators on the floor at the same time is always what you want to see.

“My most translatable skill is probably gonna be my playmaking,” Blackwell said when I asked him about what he thought would translate to college ball.

If Blackwell can hone his passing and decision-making skills during his senior season at Brother Rice, he’ll be an excellent secondary playmaker in lineups that include a true point guard. This is a pretty lofty comparison given all that he accomplished at Wisconsin, but there is definitely some Josh Gasser-like qualities to Blackwell’s game. He also reminds me of a taller Michael Flowers (who people, or at least I did, forget shot 41.2% from deep his senior year) in terms of defensive versatility.

I’m excited to follow Blackwell’s progression throughout this summer and then into his senior season at Brother Rice because it looks like Greg Gard and Wisconsin found (another) player that was undervalued before he blows up.

Updated on Sunday 4/17/22 at 1:08 p.m. CT with some quotes from John Blackwell.