With the graduation of one of the most successful classes in Wisconsin history, it’s time for the Badgers to turn the page. There will be a lot of minutes out there with the departures of Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter, which means that there is playing time available for Wisconsin’s three-man freshman class of Brad Davison, Kobe King and Nate Reuvers.
The highly-touted group has Wisconsin fans excited. King is the lone in-state player of the group, a 6-foot-4 guard who was named Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball and AP Player of the Year as a senior. A four-star recruit according to ESPN, King will likely combine with Davison to form a solid backcourt in the future.
Davison, also a four-star recruit, is a combo guard out of Maple Grove, Minn. who was a first-team all-state selection this year. Reuvers, who joined Davison on the all-state team, is a 6-foot-10 power forward from Lakeville, Minn. that appears to offer the versatility that the Badgers look for from their big men. Reuvers is Wisconsin’s highest-ranked 2017 recruit according to ESPN, ranked 83rd in the class.
Five-star guard Tyler Herro is committed to join Davison and King in the backcourt in 2018. Herro, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Whitnall High School in Wisconsin, is ranked 23rd in his class by ESPN, including first in the state.
With Davison, Herro and King in the fold for the coming years, it’s likely the Badgers will look too add size to 2018. The Badgers were scheduled to have one available scholarship for 2018. However, another potential spot opened up after redshirt junior guard Jordan Hill announced his intent to transfer last week. A frontcourt commit would be huge, as Wisconsin’s rotation isn’t clear going forward.
Ethan Happ should be entrenched as Wisconsin’s best player the next two years. The 6-foot-10 big man from Milan, Ill. was a third-team Associated Press All-American this season after averaging 14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
The Badgers have several frontcourt options going forward, including soon-to-be juniors Charles Thomas and Alex Illikainen each earning significant playing time during portions of the last two years.
Thomas is a well-built 6-foot-8, 252-pound forward from Highland, Md., but he has yet to look comfortable on the floor. Thomas isn’t explosive enough to finish around the rim and has yet to develop a smooth outside jumper.
Illikainen’s jumper looks good, but he hasn’t gotten it to fall the last two years. At 6-foot-9, 232 pounds, Illikainen also struggles on the defensive end. That really showed in the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan, when the Wolverines continually put Illikainen in ball screen situations and forced Greg Gard to keep him off the court the rest of the game.
There’s also Andy Van Vliet, a 7-footer from Belgium who has yet to find a role. Van Vliet will be a junior despite being ineligible to play his freshman year. He has shown the ability to be a 3-point threat and has the size to change shots on the defensive end, but his game hasn’t expanded enough at this point.
The Badgers will be adding Aleem Ford to the mix. The 6-foot-8 forward from Georgia, who redshirted this past season, should have the athleticism and versility to step in and earn playing time for the Badgers in the near future.
Looking at the history of Wisconsin, someone is going to step up and take a hold of the forward positions, helping replace some of the frontcourt production of the outgoing Hayes (14.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists per game) and Brown (6.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
No matter how the frontcourt comes together next year, the big men rotation looks to be wide open in 2019-2020 and beyond. Reuvers will likely be filling one of those spots, but there are also minutes out there to be had by the classes of 2018 and 2019.
At the top of the wish list is Joey Hauser. However, he is at the top of a lot of wish lists. A 6-foot-8 forward out of Stevens Point, Hauser is a four-star recruit on 247Sports and ESPN, with 247Sports ranking him 25th overall in the class of 2018 and ESPN ranking him 31st.
Wisconsin has targeted Hauser for years, but he was a little in the background during the 2016-17 high school season after missing time with an ankle injury. However, Hauser returned to lead Stevens Point to its third state Division 1 state championship, collecting 33 points, 21 rebounds and four assists in the title game.
Although many more schools are likely to come calling, Hauser already has offers from a number of major programs, including Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue in the Big Ten. But it appears that Marquette, Michigan State, Virginia and Wisconsin have taken the point in Hauser’s recruiting so far, as he told Marquette Wire earlier this month.
Hauser appears to be a perfect on-court fit at Wisconsin, with the size and inside-out ability to fit in well with the Badgers. However, Marquette has to be considered the favorite at this point.
Hauser’s brother, Sam, is coming off his freshman season at Marquette. Sam also likely had a good experience at Marquette, earning playing time right away and averaging 8.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game for a team that made the NCAA Tournament.
The Badgers have also offered Isaiah Kelly, extending the offer in 2015. Kelly, a 6-foot-7 three-star forward from Georgia, also has an offer from Rutgers in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin has also shown interest in Race Thompson, a 6-foot-8 power forward out of Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Minnesota. Thompson has offers from a number of other teams, including Iowa State, Minnesota, Marquette, Nebraska and Northwestern.
That trio has been the main targets as Wisconsin looks to fill out its roster. The Badgers are already in good shape with their three-man 2017 class and Herro in the fold for 2018, but they could add a lot to their future by adding a difference-making big man for 2018.