It is evident that Greg Gard and the Wisconsin Badgers have aspirations of bringing in elite talent down low for the 2019 season.
This comes as no surprise considering the Badgers will be tasked with replacing Ethan Happ. Nate Reuvers and Aleem Ford obviously won’t be graduated by the time the 2019 season rolls around. However, it makes complete sense for Gard to attempt to bulk up on big men considering Wisconsin will be a bit guard heavy otherwise.
Gard has already offered scholarships to power forwards Matthew Hurt, E.J. Liddell, and Robbie Beran. All of which are top 100, potential difference-making players. The Badgers have also offered center Zeke Nnaji a scholarship.
Any of the previously mentioned four players would be significant commitments for the Badgers. With that being said, given the competition at hand in landing any of the big men, getting either to commit could be tough.
However, analyzing Liddell’s potential impact is the most relevant considering it seems the Badgers have the best chance at landing him compared to the others.
Liddell announced his top five schools about three weeks ago. The list, which includes Wisconsin, is also made up of Illinois, Kansas State, Missouri, and Ohio State.
The 6’7 power forward has a plethora of offers. So, the fact that the Badgers cracked his top five is a feat of its own. But, this wouldn’t mean anything if Liddell ends up choosing elsewhere.
So, what would it mean if Liddell decided to come to Madison? A whole lot.
The Belleville, IL native became only the second junior ever to be named Mr. Basketball in Illinois last season. The first? Jabari Parker.
Liddell is listed as the best power forward in Illinois by 247sports for good reason. Liddell averaged 20.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists last season at Belleville West High School.
Liddell was dominant as a sophomore as well. He scored in double figures in all but one of Belleville West’s 29 games. Lidell also collected two triple doubles and six double-doubles.
It’s difficult to imagine Liddell still has another year of high school basketball left. It would be surprising if the power forward didn’t take home Mr. Basketball honors again.
Liddell is a player who wants the ball in his hands and can essentially do whatever he wants in the paint. Though there are clearly a magnitude of admirable facets to his game, the most intriguing is his shot-blocking ability.
Liddell’s scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers may have been enough to title him the best player in Illinois during the 2017-’18 season. However, Lidell also averaged six blocks per game last season. That statistic is even more absurd considering that means Liddell recorded 200 blocks last season.
We all know Ethan Happ will go down as a Wisconsin legend. But, even Happ doesn’t have the shot-blocking ability that Liddell has. Happ averaged 1.1 blocks per game last season. Even during his best high school season Happ only recorded 1.9 blocks per game.
There truly hasn’t been an elite shot-blocker in Madison in quite some time. This is an element that I’m sure Gard would love to add to a program with a history of lockdown defense. The last Badger to average at least two blocks per game in a season was Jared Berggren in 2012-’13.
The resourceful power forward truly possesses everything a Division 1 program wants. Liddell has also been described as a spectacular leader who brings out the best in his teammates. That goes along with his noticeable maturity and poise for a young man under the national microscope.
Liddell would instantly contribute to a Wisconsin team that will presumably feature Brad Davison, D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl, Nate Reuvers, and Kobe King as its main contributors. All of which are guards besides Reuvers. And it’s safe to say that none hold the scoring, blocking, and rebounding potential that Liddell will at the college level.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Ohio State currently seems to be leading the E.J Liddell sweepstakes. The Badgers are probably the biggest underdogs too considering Liddell has yet to take an official visit to Madison.
But, who knows, Liddell obviously put Wisconsin in his final five for a reason. A visit to Wisconsin will at the very least attract more interest from the elite power forward.
Plain and simple, the Badgers will be in need of an effective big-man after next season. If Liddell ends up being the guy, Gard should get all he needs out of the power forward and then some.