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From Understudy to Lead Role: Chucky Hepburn Showed Growth for the Wisconsin Badgers



Wisconsin Badgers Basketball point guard Chucky Hepburn
Mar 28, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Chucky Hepburn (23) passes the ball against the North Texas Mean Green in the first half at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

From Understudy to Lead Role: Chucky Hepburn Showed Growth for the Wisconsin Badgers

Madison, Wis. — Now that fans have had time to reflect on the Wisconsin Badgers disappointing season full of inconsistencies and what could have been’s, I have a bone to pick with a (hopefully) small portion of the fanbase that tends to get vocal about their uninformed opinions. 

Far too often on the Twitter machine and various message boards, fans of the program have been chastizing sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn, saying that he managed to take a step back during his sophomore season and didn’t show any signs of development. 

Talk about a puzzling statement. 

I find it shocking that people could even perform the mental gymnastics necessary to reach that conclusion on their own–and then double down on it utterly devoid of any logic or rationale. 

So, to that crowd, if you’re out there, I’d like to tell you that you’re wrong and would enjoy a chance to set the narrative straight for anyone who thinks otherwise. 

Let’s begin. 

Chucky Hepburn Made Improvements as a Floor General 

This narrative is floating around that Chucky Hepburn isn’t best suited for playing point guard and instead would be better off playing shooting guard for the Wisconsin Badgers.

To that, I say…huh?

First off, Hepburn’s assist rate (which nobody had an issue with last season) went up from 14.1 to 19.8, and his turnover rate went down from 14.8 to 12.1—which, IMO, illustrates growth and maturity from a young floor general, not someone who regressed.

He also racked up 99 assists to just 52 turnovers—maintaining his nearly 2:1 assist/turnover ratio despite having much more on his plate as an orchestrator of Greg Gard’s offense. 

His Counting Stats Took a Jump For the Wisconsin Badgers 

Second, Chucky Hepburn led the Wisconsin Badgers in scoring as an underclassman (somehow, this tends to get overlooked), averaging 12.2 points per game.

Additionally, the 6-foot-2 sophomore improved his conventional stats nearly across the board, improving his assist total and rebounding numbers while racking up more steals. 

His usage rate increased drastically, going from 15.4 to 24.3. That said, his ORTG decreased slightly from 100.1 to 98.3. 

According to HoopMath, the Nebraska native took 41.9% of his shots from beyond the arc in 2022-23.

Despite the volume, Hepburn’s 3-point percentage went up drastically, going from 34.8% to 40.9% as a sophomore, which led the team and was also second-best in the Big Ten.

Some Area’s Hepburn Needs to Improve 

Chucky Hepburn is still hesitant to take the ball to the rack, and it’s related to confidence. He rarely drove toward contact, taking only 22.3% of his shots at the rim, which isn’t ideal from your leading scorer.

In a perfect world, you’d like to see him attacking and generating more trips to the free throw line, something he only did 2.2 times per game, according to SportsReference.

His 2-point percentage dropped from 42.1% as a freshman to 35.7% in 2022-23, which is an area where he needs to improve during the off-season to take the next step.

It was also clear that the Wisconsin Badgers didn’t have a late-game closer capable of replacing Johnny Davis this season. 

Hepburn took a lot of heat for his end-of-game shot selection and time management, but overall, he got to his spots, and sometimes the shot just doesn’t fall. 

Could he have taken it to the rim more often? Yes. Should he have? Also yes.

However, Hepburn had some big moments going to his step-back jumper during crunch time. You can’t fault a player for taking a shot they were looking for and are confident in. 

Experience is the best teacher, and the sophomore point guard got plenty during crunch time that should help him improve moving forward. 

Final Thoughts

I’m still unsure if Chucky Hepburn is a guy that can lead the Wisconsin Badgers offense as a primary scoring option. He’s hot and cold from the field and needs to improve his scoring efficiency. 

However, he can dictate the game’s tempo, create for others, and be the straw that stirs the drink. Hepburn is a consummate point guard, which is incredibly valuable to any program, and Wisconsin is lucky to have him. 

Did he take the leap (like Johnny Davis) that some hoped for? No.

But Hepburn undoubtedly improved and showed flashes of the player he can become, which is pretty damn good.

Chucky is far from a finished product, and he could easily become UW’s best player with some seasoning.

Still, his ball security, defense, and three-point shooting make him a foundational piece for Wisconsin men’s basketball to continue building around.

In short, Chucky Hepburn got better in year two, and anyone who thinks otherwise is nuts.

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