When Bo Ryan became head basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin in 2001, he implemented his “swing” offense that had won him 4 NCAA Division 3 championships at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Bo’s style demanded that all 5 players be versatile, interchangeable, and have the ability to play both inside and out. Traditional power forwards would generally play within 15 feet of the basket, but in the swing, they would often set up outside the arc. To be a successful power forward at Wisconsin, you need to be able to set great picks, handle the ball, find the open man with crisp passing, post-up, and hit the open jumper. Here are the top-5 power forwards in the Bo Ryan/Greg Gard era.
5) Vitto Brown: 2013 – 2017
After seeing limited action his freshman and sophomore years, Brown stepped up as a key contributor for a Badger team that reached the Sweet Sixteen in the 2015-16 season. Vitto averaged 9.7 points and 5 rebounds per game and proved to be a legitimate deep threat as he led the team in 3pt fg% (.400%). After a seemingly breakout junior season, Brown would see his minutes decrease his senior year due to the emergence of freshman, D’mitrik Trice and the rim-shaking sophomore, Khalil Iverson. Brown went on to average 6.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game his senior season. Despite the somewhat pedestrian numbers, Brown will always be remembered by Badger fans for the 3 huge 3’s that he hit to help Wisconsin advance to their 4th consecutive Sweet 16, by beating defending National Champion and number 1-seed, Villanova.
4) Micah Potter: 2019-2020
It’s hard to include someone in a Wisconsin top-5 list who’s only played in 20 total games over his Badger career, but Micah Potter certainly deserves to be here. Due to a very questionable NCAA ruling, The OSU-transfer was forced to sit out the first semester of the 2019-20 season. When Potter was finally eligible to play, he added instant energy to a 5-5 Wisconsin team that was barely treading water. Potter was absolutely lethal from downtown, leading the Badgers in 3pt fg% (.460%) and FT% (.857%). While playing in less than 18 minutes a night, Potter finished 2nd in points per game (10.3), 1st in rebounds (6.3), and 2nd in blocks (.95), all while helping Wisconsin finish in a 3-way tie for first place in the Big-Ten. With another big year, Potter could easily make his way into the top 3.
3) Marcus Landry 2005 – 2009
Accolades: 2 x 2nd Team All-Big Ten (2008, 2009) – Coaches; 2 x 3rd Team All-Big Ten (2008, 2009) – Media
Marcus Landry was an immediate contributor for the Badgers, coming off the bench his freshman and sophomore seasons to average 6 points and a little over 3 rebounds per game. Landry became a starter as a junior where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds while helping the Badgers win both the Big Ten regular season and the Big Ten Conference Championship. Wisconsin easily won their first 2 games of the NCAA tournament before being defeated by a red-hot Stephen Curry-led Davidson team in the Sweet 16. Landry would be awarded for his efforts by being named 2nd Team All-Big Ten (Coaches) and 3rd Team All-Big Ten (Media). Landry would again be named to the All-Big Ten team his senior season (2nd Team Coaches/3rd Team Media) while increasing his scoring to 12.7 points per game and averaging 4.6 rebounds. Wisconsin would go on to lose to Xavier in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. Marcus Landry may not have had the range that Brown and Potter had, but he was a great effort player who played great defense.
2) Mike Wilkinson: 2001 – 2005
Accolades: 1st Team All-Big Ten (2005)
Mike Wilkinson broke the mold for what a power forward should be in a Bo Ryan led system. At 6’8” and 240 lbs, Wilkinson was a long, strong, athletic big who could handle the ball, score from anywhere on the court, and be a tenacious defender. Wilkinson didn’t become a full-time starter until his sophomore year, but he played a lot as a freshman (28 mpg). In Bo Ryan’s inaugural year as head coach, Wilkinson averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while helping the Badgers become Big Ten regular season champions. Wisconsin would repeat as Big Ten regular season champions in Wilkinson’s sophomore year and win the Big Ten Tournament championship in his junior year. Wilkinson was voted 1st team All-Big Ten his senior year, averaging 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He helped Wisconsin reach the Elite 8, before losing a very close game to the eventual National Champion, North Carolina Tar Heels. Aside from his obvious talent, Mike Wilkinson helped pave the road for future Wisconsin teams by laying down a foundation for what Wisconsin basketball would be about; toughness, versatility, and efficiency. The success of those early Badger teams proved that Bo Ryan’s swing offense could be successful at the highest level of collegiate competition.
1) Jon Leuer: 2007 – 2011
Accolades: 1st Team All-Big Ten (2011) – Coaches; 2nd Team All-Big Ten (2011) – Media; Honorable Mention All-America (2011) – AP, Wooden Award finalist (2011)
It was really tough to put someone above Mike Wilkinson, but after looking at the numbers, Jon Leuer gets the nod as the greatest power forward in the Ryan/Gard era. Leuer was a long, athletic 6’10 forward that was a huge mismatch for any team that he went up against. He was too quick for traditional big men, and too good of a shooter for smaller, quicker defenders. Leuer had been a guard in high school, but a 10” growth spurt prior to his senior year changed that. The added height granted him with the combination of size and guard-like ball handles that gave him an advantage over anyone that guarded him. Leuer had a breakout year during his junior season where he led the team in points (15.4), rebounds (5.8), and blocks (1.3). Being named to multiple preseason All-American teams, Leuer would ride the momentum into a monster senior season, averaging 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, again leading the Badgers in both categories. Leuer led the Badgers to the Sweet 16 where they lost to the red hot, eventual National runner-up, Butler Bulldogs. Leuer would be named 1st team All-Big Ten (Coaches), 2nd Team All-Big Ten (Media), Honorable Mention All-America (AP), and a finalist for the Wooden Award as the nation’s most outstanding player.