The Wisconsin Badgers extended their first scholarship offer for the 2020 recruiting class last week. In-state wing Jalen Johnson announced on Friday via Twitter that the Badgers had extended him an athletic scholarship — making them the first school to make an official offer. Johnson, a 6-foot-6 prospect, attends Sun Prairie High School, which is just 25 minutes away from the Kohl Center.
Johnson put together a strong freshman season for the Cardinals, averaging 14.9 points per game for a team that went 20-4. Considered the best 2020 prospect in Wisconsin, Johnson has the ability to play every position on the wing and in the backcourt.
Greg Gard and the Badgers have now offered the top in-state player in the next three classes, with Johnson joining Joey Hauser (2018) and Nobal Days (2019). The Badgers haven’t had a commitment from the top-ranked player in the state of Wisconsin since Sam Dekker joined the program in 2012. Kobe King, a 2017 Wisconsin recruit from La Crosse Central, has flipped back-and-forth with Milwaukee Riverside’s Terrence Lewis for the top spot in the state rankings.
A future commitment from Johnson would be a bit of a rarity for the Badgers. Wisconsin has won with many in-state players over the years, but there haven’t been too many key players from the Madison area.
Since the turn of the century, there have been just four difference-making players from the direct area (within 25 miles of the Kohl Center). The latest was Keaton Nankivil, who was recruited out of James Madison Memorial High School and went on to start 87 games for Wisconsin from 2007-2011. Nankivil averaged 9.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game as a senior.
Prior to Nankivil, Michael Flowers carried the torch as a Madison native. Flowers, out of Madison La Follette High School, appeared in 133 games for the Badgers from 2004-08. Flowers was Wisconsin’s defensive stopper and a two-time All-Big Ten selection, averaging 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game for his career.
The most-decorated local since 2000 is Mike Wilkinson, who contributed immediately after graduating from Wisconsin Heights High School in 2001. The power forward averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2001-02, then saw those numbers increase every year until he collected 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during his first-team all-conference campaign as a senior in 2004-05.
Finally, Roy Boone came out of Madison East High School and averaged 6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the eighth-seeded Wisconsin team that made a Cinderella run to the 2000 Final Four. The 6-foot-3 guard came back and averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 2000-01.
Wisconsin has relied heavily on the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and more recently, Ohio to build its consistent success over the last two decades. It can be fun to take a look at where those guys came from, and Johnson’s offer allows the opportunity to do so.