Last year it was Sam Dekker in the preseason spotlight. While Dekker's growth spurt and LeBron James Skills Academy performance got some good buzz, the headliner this summer has been Badger senior Frank Kaminsky. Whether it's being slotted as a top-25 pick in next year's NBA draft, named to a hypothetical college-only Olympic team or voted the most desirable collegiate player in the land, the hype train continues to roll on for Kaminsky.
With good reason. Kaminsky's NCAA tournament performances up until the Final Four were legendary and proved he was the most versatile big man at the college level.
If there is a downside to all this, it would be the danger of Kaminsky not handling the heightened expectations or getting complacent. While not under the same scrutiny as the quarterback of a certain football team, Kaminsky is in the somewhat unenviable position of needing to have an All-American season just to meet expectations. The seven-footer will be a preseason front runner for Big Ten and national player of the year awards.
Kaminsky was a counselor at the recent Adidas Nations camp, participating in a tournament the first few days he was there. At least one observer noted that Kaminsky was not too impressive amongst his elite peers in attendance. Hanging around the perimeter and struggling on the interior sounds like someone who is not playing with the same level of confidence as he did this spring.
Before I make too big of an issue out of one report, let's just all agree that Kaminsky needs to keep improving. Thirteen times he was held under double-digits in scoring last year; UW went 9-4 in those games. Wisconsin went 2-2 to close the Big Ten season and Kaminsky committed at least four fouls in three of those games. He was a bit exposed by an unending rotation of more physical Kentucky big men that limited him to eight points in the season finale.
The Badgers can overcome some foul trouble from Kaminsky with Dekker, Hayes and Vitto Brown and/or freshman Ethan Happ inside. However, the big guy can't take himself out of games with silly fouls if for no other reason than he is so crazy efficient on offense. Maintaining the confidence we caught a glimpse of last year is one key to consistency.
The silver lining is that teams focusing on stopping Kaminsky still have an improved Dekker to deal with, not to mention Nigel Hayes, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Bronson Koenig.