This is the second part of a five-part series looking back on the college careers of the best recruit each year of the past decade that committed and played their college careers in the Big Ten. For rankings’ purposes, we used 247Sports’ Composite rankings.
2012: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
The most highly ranked recruit in 2012 was Sam Dekker who ended up staying home and attending Wisconsin after being named Mr. Basketball his senior year of high school in the Badger state. He is the most highly recruited Badger of recent memory, coming in as the 12th ranked recruit in the nation. While Dekker obviously came in with high expectations, he only started 3 games his freshman year. This may seem a little bit disappointing, however, he played in all 35 games and became only the fourth true freshman to start under Bo Ryan. His 9.6 points per game also ranked fourth on the team as Wisconsin was led in scoring by Ben Brust with 11.1 ppg. Dekker finished the year as the most efficient scorer on the team out of the major contributors, shooting 47.8% from the field, earning himself All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
Dekker built on his freshman season in 2013-14 as Wisconsin also saw the breakout of Frank Kaminsky. The pair of forwards, along with Ben Brust, helped propel the Badgers to the Final Four before they lost to Kentucky. Dekker earned himself a spot on the Second Team All-Big Ten after bumping his scoring average to 12.4 per game. The highlight of Dekker’s career in Madison, however, came in his junior year when he helped the Badgers to the National Title game. This run also featured a rematch with Kentucky in the Final Four, this time meeting up against the undefeated Wildcats team. Dekker scored 16 points in that game helping to advance against the eventual National Champions, Duke.
Overall, Dekker’s career in Madison can be considered a huge success, despite never being considered the best player on the team, as that honor was widely given to Frank Kaminsky. The swingman left school after his junior season, getting drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
2013: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Indiana won the Vonleh sweepstakes in 2013, as he chose the Hoosiers over Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and others. The big man came in with great expectations due to his length, skill, and shooting ability rarely found in young players. He had big shoes to fill with his arrival as Indiana had to replace Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, and Jordan Hulls. Vonleh made an immediate impact in Bloomington, making 29 starts in his lone college season. Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game earning him Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Third Team All-Big Ten in 2013-14.
While Vonleh had a pretty good year individually, Indiana struggled as a team, finishing 17-15 and failing to reach the postseason. Vonleh chose to forego the rest of his eligibility, opting to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. He was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the ninth overall pick. The young big man has struggled to latch on to a team in the NBA, playing for five different teams in his short professional career. However, he had a good season in 2018-19 with the New York Knicks before signing a contract with the Timberwolves this past offseason.
Overall, Vonleh can look back on his decision to attend Indiana with no regrets despite the team’s struggles in his lone season. However, Indiana fans may have a harder time looking back on the disappointing season.