Earlier this month, Sam Dekker participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy, an invitational/workout/showcase/all-around fun event for top high school and college stars. The roster has some notable faces: DJ Newbill, Dez Wells and Aaron White all rep the B1G, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson challenged the Badgers in Arizona's Elite 8 loss last season, and Kelly Oubre and Stanley Johnson are highly touted incoming freshman.
With a loaded roster, you wouldn't expect Sam Dekker to stand out as the star. But everybody loved him.
Sam Dekker has been really, really good thus far here at LeBron James Camp. Consistently assertive, making shots, defending, passing, etc.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 11, 2014
Sam Dekker seemed to be consensus "best player" at LeBron Camp. Made lot of shots when I was watching. If Kaminsky is best UW guy, watch out— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) July 13, 2014
Houston Rockets Director of Player Dev. on Sam Dekker at LeBron James camp last week: "He was the BEST player there. Hands down." #Badgers— Zack Miller (@miller_zack) July 19, 2014
That's some high praise. Dekker's summer has been great so far. He grew two inches and dominated LeBron's camp as well as Kevin Durant's camp earlier this summer. But what does this all mean for next season?
Lots of scouts have raved about Dekker's "assertiveness" and his ability to create his own shot. That was Dekker's weak link last season. While many expected him to become the go-to scorer, he always seemed uncomfortable when he was forced to make something out of nothing offensively.
Remember their loss against Ohio State in February? Dekker's inability to assert himself offensively was on full display. He went 2-6 from the field in 19 minutes, and was benched for Nigel Hayes during the second half. The Badgers had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but Dekker missed an ugly 3 at the buzzer.
His performance at these camps has demonstrated that he's a different player. Last season, Dekker was most effective when he was behind-the-scenes on offense. Throughout his college career, he's been great moving without the ball. Whether it's a backdoor cut for an easy layup or curling around a screen for a midrange jumper, he's always done the little things well and kept the Wisconsin offense afloat without scoring in bunches. Now, he'll come into this next season with a whole new swagger and a whole new confidence.
Dekker's new offensive confidence could help this Badger team make history. As we know, Wisconsin will be loaded. The only question mark will be perimeter shooting, as they will replace Ben Brust with Nigel Hayes in the starting lineup. Therefore, they'll play a bigger lineup that has fewer three-point threats. According to reports, Dekker's outside shooting has improved significantly. If he can knock down threes with consistency next season, their offense will be scary.
Even after dominating at these camps, Dekker isn't Wisconsin's best player - an equally scary thought for other teams. That title belongs to Frank Kaminsky. But as we saw against Kentucky, Kaminsky can be stopped with an athletic defender and lots of double-teams. If Dekker can become an equally threatening second option, hoo boy. Kaminsky will be double-teamed a lot next year, and will be looking for Dekker when trouble comes. Dekker just needs to continue his offensive assertiveness for this team to reach their full potential.
Do these developments change the ceiling for the Badgers next year? I think so. We knew Dekker was going to improve, but didn't know exactly how. Well, he's two inches taller and apparently has revolutionized his offensive game. If he proves it when the season arrives, the Badgers could run away with the Big Ten.