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Badgers freshman Nolan Winter quickly acclimating to college environment

The Badgers forward has been a key part of the rotation all season long.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In the past decade, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program has been home to several towering post players such as Frank Kaminsky, Ethan Happ, Nate Reuvers, and current starters Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl.

At 6-foot-11, freshman forward Nolan Winter fits the mold as the Badgers' next paint punisher.

In September of 2022, Winter committed to the program, becoming the third recruit from Minnesota’s Lakeville North High School for the Badgers in the last five years, joining Tyler Wahl and Nate Reuvers.

Reuvers and Wahl both acted as major contributors for Greg Gard, which gives Badger fans a reason to be optimistic about Winter’s future.

The Lakeville native had an outstanding high school career that earned him Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year in his senior season. Winter averaged a double-double with 23.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. As a recruit, he was ranked nationally as the 151st best in the country and 34th best at his position (power forward).

Now, as he’s acclimating to the college environment, Winter is understanding the differences from the high school game, and absorbing information from the coaching staff on a daily basis.

“In high school, I was just seven foot. I could just kind of do whatever I wanted and it’d be a presence for the offense. But getting here, just the principles and everything about it, Coach Gard and Coach Krabbenhoft have helped me a ton with that and we’re getting better everyday,” Winter shared.

In his debut season with the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers, Winter is averaging just under 10 minutes per game (9.5), and has shown potential in his meaningful minutes. The young forward averages three points per game, with a season-high seven against Ohio St. on Jan. 10. Winter is shooting 50% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc.

Recently, we’ve seen Winter become more confident with his shot, letting it fly whenever he’s open, rather than looking to continue running the offense.

“I’m just starting to realize I need to trust my shot more,” Winter said. “I’ve worked on it for 15 years, so, I mean, every time I catch it now, I’m not thinking about it, I’m just letting it go. Whenever I do that in the past, I know I make it at a higher rate.”

His ability to play offensively in the paint along with shooting from deep paired with active hands and a strong interior presence defensively makes him a near-perfect fit in the Badgers’ offensive and defensive playstyles.

“I think offensively it’s just bringing outside presence from three and I’ll take advantage of a mismatch,” Winter said. “Just space the floor, look to get your shot and sometimes put it on the floor if I need to.”

At the end of the 2023-24 season, Tyler Wahl will have exhausted his final year of eligibility with the team, which leaves an opening for Winter to be a key contributor in the 2024-25 season. Following the 2024-25 season, Winter is set to be the primary post player for the Badgers with the departure of 7-foot forward Steven Crowl.

Gard’s efforts to include Winter into the regular rotation on a team that seems destined to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments provide the freshman with invaluable experience that will prepare him for a bigger role in the coming seasons.

“I’m just going into every game ready to play, whether it’s 20 minutes, five minutes, two minutes, whatever,” Winter said. “I honestly just want to win. I’ll do whatever coach asks of me. It’s been fun this whole freshman season. It’s been awesome.”