The Wisconsin Badgers had a disappointing 2022 season to their standards, missing the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since 1998.
That weighed heavily on one player specifically, as forward Tyler Wahl was left with a tough decision: end his collegiate career on a sour note or forego professional opportunities to return for a fifth and final season.
Ultimately, Wahl elected to return for a final season, leaving the Badgers with nearly their entire 2022 rotation for the upcoming year, as there were no departing seniors, while backup guard Jordan Davis was the lone transfer that played last season.
How did head coach Greg Gard convince his top forward to return for a final year?
It came down to the idea of being the first player in Badgers history to accomplish an improbable feat: winning three Big Ten Championships.
“I gave him space, I think, back in April,” Gard said. “And I think the one common thing that came with Tyler is that I talked to him about there’s been no player in Wisconsin basketball history that’s won three Big Ten championships.”
“And he has a chance to be the only player in school history to do that. As I said, Tyler really is he boiled everything else out, graduate degree and finishing up his undergrad and professional opportunities overseas, or does he try to work something with a two-way or anything like that? Tyler, there’s one way you can be that only player to win three Big Ten championships. Then that means you have to come back.”
Gard shared that after Wahl pondered all of his options, it became that the chance for a third title outweighed his other opportunities, leading to a return.
“I think when he really let the dust settle and just the emotion of the season, of his injury and everything that he had gone through and he was able to kind of clear his mind, he came to the realization that this is really good here and I want to make a run in a third title,” Gard said.
The Badgers appear to look improved in 2023 with the additions of transfer wing A.J. Storr and freshmen John Blackwell, Nolan Winter, and Gus Yalden, but Wahl’s presence will certainly add to their hopes of bounce-back season.