Saturday, October 12, 2013

Meeting the New Badger Basketball Players

With football season in full swing and the baseball playoffs ramping up, basketball might not be at the forefront of everyone’s sporting interests. However, the Badger basketball team kicked off (sports pun intended) practice two weeks ago and has an exhibition game upcoming against UW-Platteville on October 30. Needless to say we are due for a basketball preview. First up will be the newcomers to the program, highlighting their potential ceiling and floor compared to previous Badger hoopers. In reality most will fall somewhere in between, but this exercise is meant to help provide some possible expectations for each player. It’s important to note these are career projections and not limited to this upcoming season. Let’s get started.

#5 Aaron Moesch 6’8” 200lbs Green Bay SW HS WI

Chose the Badgers over offers from - Eastern Illinois and preferred walk on at UW-Green Bay.

Aaron Moesch joins the Badgers as a preferred walk on. As a senior he averaged 18.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game in the competitive Fox River Conference and also earned honorable mention all-state. Moesch is not expected to break into the regular rotation immediately, if ever, but brings a high basketball IQ and versatile game to the team. Check out the ball handling on display in the first five seconds of the highlight tape, pretty smooth handle for a 6’8” player. Moesch will fit in nicely with the scout team and with enough progression could see minutes in the eight or nine man rotation when he’s an upper classman.

Badger comp ceiling – Zach Morley. Morley was a versatile forward that spent two years in community college before joining the Badgers early on during Bo’s tenure. Morley was a key member of the Elite Eight squad in 2004-2005 and used court awareness and savvy to excel against much quicker and stronger players. Like Morley, Moesch could use a few years to develop right out of high school in order to be on par athletically with physical Big Ten wing players.

Badger comp floor – JP Gavinksi. Worst case scenario for Moesch is spending four to five years on a perennial Big Ten basketball power and seeing the floor in already has been decided games.

#10 Nigel Hayes 6’7” 250lbs Whitmer HS OH

Chose the Badgers over offers from – Stanford, Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati

Getting Nigel Hayes away from Ohio State was a steal. He grew up a Buckeye fan and his older brother was on the football team (he has since left). Luckily Bo Ryan was one of the first to offer a scholarship and Hayes eventually made the right decision to come to Madison. He was a second team all-state performer in Ohio as a junior and senior and left Whitmer as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots. He can score in a variety of ways and seems comfortable shooting off the dribble or spotting up. And like the clip above demonstrates, he has no issues attacking the rim.

Badger comp ceiling – Alando Tucker lite. Hard comparison to make since very few athletes have hops like Tucker, but Hayes has the same scorer’s mentality. His ceiling will largely depend on if how easily he can adjust to scoring against top level college defenses. Improved footwork in the post will help diversify his offensive arsenal and should make him a scoring threat capable of 15-20 points per game as an upperclassman.

Badger comp floor – Marcus Landry. Let’s be clear, Landry had a great career as a Badger and is currently playing his way onto the LA Lakers. He’s an extremely talented basketball player.  It seems somewhat off-putting to list a NBA level player as someone’s floor, but this comparison is based more on Landry’s role within the team. Landry was a slasher/scorer in high school but developed more of a low post presence, especially on defense, in Madison. Hayes could find himself in a similar position where he’s not asked to attack from the perimeter or off the dribble as much.

#11 Jordan Hill 6’3” 170lbs Exeter Academy NH

Chose the Badgers over offers from – Brown, Florida Gulf Coast, Yale, Dartmouth, Kent State, Lehigh, Santa Clara

Jordan Hill graduated high school in May of 2012 and spent the 2012-2013 school year attending prep school in New Hampshire. Hill was Class A second team All-New England and helped Exeter win their first ever Class A title. He impressed Bo Ryan with his defense on the AAU circuit and has the quickness and length to really disrupt perimeter players. Hill is somewhat of a late bloomer (he will turn 19 in December) and had plenty of room to develop. An already deep guard rotation seems to indicate Hill will be a redshirt candidate this year, but he has plenty of talent to contribute during his time in Madison.

Badger comp ceiling – Michael Flowers. Flowers was a lock down on ball defender and Hill has a similar tenacity and desire to play defense. Hill is a slightly taller and longer than Flowers which will help him guard everything from point guards to small forwards.

Badger comp floor – Rob Wilson. Wilson had plenty of talent but struggled to pick up Bo’s man to man principles and was challenged to find playing time as a result. Hill could face a similar struggle adjusting to Big Ten basketball and get lost in the deep guard rotation.

#24 Bronson Koenig 6’3” 190lbs Aquinas HS WI

Chose the Badgers over offers from – Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Marquette, Virginia

Bronson Koenig certainly comes to Madison as the most decorated player of this class. He was AP Wisconsin player of the year as a senior and McDonald’s All American nominee (similar to Sam Dekker (whom Koenig was an AAU teammate)). Koenig is one of the more versatile guards in this country. He excels at breaking down defenses off the dribble and creating easy shots for his teammates. Koenig has excellent vision and court awareness, as well as a flare for delivering no look or behind the back passes (note around the 2:20 mark of the video – how does he get that ball through?!?). In addition he’s a willing defender and capable scorer who can play above the rim. He’s probably the most ready player to contribute of the newcomers, but with the depth at guard, playing time will be a challenge. I think his talent will be too much to keep on the bench for long, especially if the Badgers run more three or four guard lineups.

Badger comp ceiling – Devin Harris part II. Pretty lofty comparison I know. Harris was the best Badger basketball player in the Bo Ryan era and Koenig has this type of talent. Harris was a bit taller and probably quicker, but Koenig has the same court awareness and big game ‘sense of the moment’ that Harris had.

Badger comp floor – Boo Wade. Wade unfortunately had his Wisconsin career cut short due to off the court issues, but he was an accomplished point guard and capable defender. Koenig may not reach All American status, but he will be a solid contributor and one of the conferences better guards.

#30 Vitto Brown – 6’8” 240lbs Bowling Green HS OH

Chose the Badgers over offers from – Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa State, Toledo

Vitto Brown joins the Badgers as the reigning Division 2 co-player of the year in Ohio and AP first team all-state, as well as Bowling Green’s all-time leader in rebounding and blocked shots. Brown is well built and conditioned (he also ran cross country in high school) and is physically ready for Big Ten basketball. The other thing that stands out about Brown is his versatility. At around the 1:48 mark in the clip above, Brown blocks a shot, handles the loose ball and goes coast to coast for the lay in. Brown’s game fits well with the Badgers history of skilled big men. Brown’s presence on the defensive end cannot go unlooked. He will need to develop the positioning and footwork needed for consistently defending players his size and bigger, but he has the athleticism and timing to be an effective shot blocker.

Badger comp ceiling – Keaton Nankivil mixed with less explosive Alando Tucker. Brown has a smooth looking jumper for a big man, like Nankivil, but more capable of scoring off the dribble drive. Like Hayes, Brown does not have the explosiveness of Tucker (again no one does) but he does attack the rim similarly.

Badger comp floor – Jored Bergernhoft (Joe Krabbenhoft + Jared Berggren). Krabbenhoft was a monster on the boards, while Berggren is the all-time leader in blocked shots. If Brown doesn’t find the scoring knack at this level he should still provide above average rebounding and shot blocking.

#35 Riley Dearring 6’5 180lbs Hopkins HS MN

Chose the Badgers over offers from – Drake, Northeastern, Illinois State

Dearring played for Minnesota basketball powerhouse Hopkins and was a Minnesota Mr. Basketball finalist his senior year. He has a quick release on his jumper and is a pure shooter through and through. He does not have the elite athleticism you occasionally see in a wing player but has enough length and quickness to be effective on the defensive end. Dearring is a very talented shooter and there is always room in the rotation for guys that can score. He will find himself playing meaningful minutes before too long. Like Hill, the depth at guard makes Dearring a potential redshirt candidate this season.

Badger comp ceiling – Clayton Hanson. Hanson played on some of Bo’s early teams and was a career 41% three point shooter. Dearring can definitely find a niche as a spot up shooter, especially early in his career. Eventually Dearring can develop into a rangy wing defender capable of handling bigger guards or small forwards.

Badger comp floor – Tim Jarmusz. Limited athleticism at the Big Ten level causes Dearring to struggle finding ways to score but still contributes defensively using long frame to guard multiple positions.

(Author's Note - shout out to LeeRide, fellow Badger fan who helped hash out the comparisons.)

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Neal Olson (@olewr7) 

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