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Wisconsin men’s basketball: what does new combo guard Max Klesmit bring to the Badgers?

The native of Neenah will provide some much needed shooting to next year’s team. What else does he do, though?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 05 Chattanooga at Wofford Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With a few more spots to fill out on their roster for next season, Greg Gard and the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team received some good news on Saturday afternoon. Wofford shooting guard Max Klesmit (Neenah) announced on his Twitter account that he is “home” and will be transferring to UW.

First let’s get the basics out of the way.

Hometown: Neenah
High school: Neenah High School
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 190 pounds
Position: combo guard
Eligibility: true junior, has three years remaining if he uses COVID year

While Klesmit is listed in places as a combo guard, and he does have some playmaking chops that we’ll get into below, his main role for the Badgers will be as more of a traditional shooting guard that can handle the ball if the situation requires it. At Wofford, Klesmit had a high usage (24.1%, No. 439 in the nation) which would have been second on the Badgers behind only Johnny Davis last year. That will certainly come down on a more balanced Wisconsin team, but there are definitely shots to be taken next year by...someone, and Klesmit’s 53.3 eFG% on that high of usage leads me to believe he should be getting a chunk of them.

Klesmit’s three point shooting numbers decreased from his freshman to sophomore year (37.3% to 33.5%) while his attempts shot up (67 to 188), but his free throw shooting staying basically the same (84.6% to 84.0%) is a good sign that he can get back closer to his freshman year numbers from deep on less volume.

Watching the videos below, you like to see that Klesmit can shoot the three in a variety of ways and that he can attack closeouts and get to the basket when needed as well. Per Bart Torvik’s player page on Klesmit, 79.4% of his threes were assisted and having a point guard like Chucky Hepburn delivering him the rock could see Klesmit in good positions to knock down threes all season.

As far as finishing at the rim, Klesmit shot 58.5% on 94 attempts “at the rim” last year, which isn’t as good as Hepburn or Davis, but is better than Brad Davison’s numbers (56.5% on 46 attempts) the player he is ostensibly replacing.

Klesmit has active hands on defense, given that his steal percentage has been at 3.0% or higher in both of his seasons at Wofford. It’s hard to say how he fully fits into Wisconsin’s defensive scheme, as going for steals isn’t a big part of their overall style and he hasn’t practiced with the team yet, but having a guy who can force some turnovers, within the structure of the defense, certainly isn’t a bad thing.

His passing looks to be pretty good, although that isn’t what he is known for. His turnover rate, while not horrible, would have been the second worst on the Badgers last year, only ahead of Lorne Bowman. He also, some might say obviously, had a much higher turnover rate against better teams, but the sample size there is considerably smaller since he played in the SoCon. His highlight tape shows that he has the ability to make some flashy passes and also find the open guy when opposing defenses are scrambling.

If he cuts down on his turnovers and keeps improving his assist rate (only Hepburn and Davis had better numbers in that category last year on Wisconsin) he will be a valuable secondary/tertiary play-maker.

The former Neenah High School standout was named to Southern Conference All-Freshman Team by the media two years ago and was picked as a third team All-SoCon performer last year by the coaches and the media. While at Neenah, he was named all-state his last three years in school. Last year he averaged 14.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 44.6 percent from the field.

Overall, I think that Klesmit is a good add for the Badgers. Are there better players out there in the transfer portal? Yes. Are any of those players reasonable targets for the Badgers? Well,,,probably not. Klesmit fills a need and brings a skill set that the team was short on. He has multiple years of eligibility left and should be a contributor from the jump.

Wisconsin will probably still be looking to add one more transfer (and maybe two) from the portal this offseason. Now that they have two guards, a big man is in order to help take some of the pressure off of Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl.