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Senior forward Alex Illikainen departs Wisconsin basketball program

The Badgers have lost a forward.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program announced senior forward Alex Illikainen has departed the program on Monday afternoon.

Illikainen has no intentions of transferring for the time being. The 6-foot-9 forward will remain enrolled at the university and continue to pursue a degree in personal finance.

In 85 games played over three seasons, the Minnesota native never started a game for the Badgers. In that span, Illikainen averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 points per game.

“We wish Alex luck as he continues to pursue earning his degree from the University of Wisconsin in May,” head coach Greg Gard said in a statement. “We also want to thank him for his efforts during his three-plus years with our program.”

The forward was most involved as a freshman during the 2015-’16 season. Illikainen set a career-high by scoring 10 points against Purdue three seasons ago. The reserve averaged 9.8 minutes and 2.2 points per game for Wisconsin as a freshman.

The forward saw a career-low 6.8 minutes per game last season and didn’t play in this season’s opening game against Coppin State.

The lack of impact from Illikainen was far from anticipated when he chose Wisconsin in 2015. The big body was the Badgers’ highest rated incoming freshman a few years ago.

Illikainen was given a four-star rating by ESPN. He held scholarship offers from 16 total D1 programs, including Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

The power forward seemingly possessed exceptional athleticism for his large stature. However, the ability to transition to the collegiate level inhibited Illikainen throughout his career.

Illikainen will be remembered as an exceptional teammate. But, unfortunately, the once four-star recruit reached his full potential as an underclassman.

The loss has a minimal effect on Wisconsin at most. The chances of Illikainen stepping into a larger role this season were small.

Sophomore Nate Reuvers will continue to be senior forward Ethan Happ’s leading supporter in the front court. If anything, Illikainen’s departure will result in more playing time for senior forward Charlie Thomas.

Thomas scored five points in five minutes against Coppin State. The forward also saw an increase in minutes due to sophomore forward Aleem Ford’s pre-season injury.