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Should Wisconsin Basketball Consider Hiring an Ace Recruiting Specialist?

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Wisconsin Badgers Basketball coaching staff
Jan 7, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard watches his team play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Greg Gard has been at the helm of the Wisconsin basketball program since 2015, taking over for legendary coach Bo Ryan midway through the season.

Coach Gard has had a successful tenure thus far, leading the Badgers to six NCAA Tournament appearances in his first eight seasons, winning two Big Ten regular season titles and two league Coach of the Year awards.

However, one issue that has plagued Gard and his staff nationally is their inability to bring in high-end talent consistently.

While Gard is considered an elite talent evaluator, as evidenced by the success of players he recruited and played a hand in developing, like Jordan Taylor, Ethan Happ, Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Johnny Davis, he has struggled to close the deal on some of the top recruits in the country despite the programs early involvement.

It’s on Gard to ultimately close the deal with recruits, and he could certainly stand to be more aggressive, but it’s worth acknowledging that Wisconsin basketball could benefit from making a change on his coaching staff if the athletic department is willing to fork over the money.

Why Greg Gard Should Consider Making a Change on His Staff

First things first, I’m not suggesting any Wisconsin coach get fired because we’re privy to a select tidbit of information. We’re not present behind closed doors to know the coaches’ relationships with players or their role in developing some of the young talents.

That said, we have access to a small amount of Wisconsin basketball recruiting information from 247Sports that I found interesting + worth discussing.

Assistant coach Dean Oliver, who has been on staff since 2017, has secured a verbal commitment from four players (Taylor Currie, Lorne Bowman, Connor Essegian, and John Blackwell) that he served as the lead recruiter.

For comparison, associate head coach Joe Krabenhoft has landed 14 commits during that same time frame. And Sharif Chambliss, who is entering his third season on staff, has yet to secure a verbal commitment, although he’s made strong inroads in the Milwaukee metro area, which has tremendous value–especially in the 2025 in-state cycle.

Adding Context to the Wisconsin Basketball Recruiting Situation 

Now, the context in this situation is important because coach Oliver isn’t acting as the lead for players in traditional strongholds like Wisconsin and Minnesota. Instead, he’s communicating with players who often know very little about the program and would have to travel much further than Krabbenhoft’s targets to visit campus.

These assignments are certainly no easy task, but at the end of the day, if that’s your role, then you need to execute well enough for Coach Gard to get those recruits on campus for visits and have the chance to close on recruits.

Not saying that coach Chambliss should get a pass here because it’s time to start seeing some returns from him as well. Still, Dean Oliver hasn’t been able to bring in impact recruits outside of Connor Essegian consistently (I can’t emphasize enough how great of a find he was).

But I think it’s fair to say that from a fan perspective, you’d like to see more success from your assistants on the recruiting trail. Closing rates are unimportant without context, and we ultimately have no idea how good at recruiting anyone is or isn’t. Still, the more challenging assignments have led to few wins outside of more common recruiting areas.

Some Thoughts on Wisconsin Basketball Recruiting

Wisconsin Basketball coach Greg Gard

Mar 28, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard looks on during the first half against the North Texas Mean Green at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Suppose Wisconsin basketball decides it needs to allocate more resources to recruiting. In that case, I think Greg Gard would benefit significantly from prioritizing a coach outside his network, which has built a reputation as a top-notch recruiter.

Hiring an assistant coach known for his recruiting prowess could be the boost the Badgers need to elevate the program’s ceiling and work their way into the mix for some of the higher-ranked prospects in the country.

I firmly believe that Gard is an excellent in-game coach who gets the most production out of his players. Since taking over the Wisconsin basketball program, Gard has led the Badgers to the highest win total among Big Ten teams. He has also compiled the third most conference wins, despite averaging the No. 9 recruiting class in the B1G during that timeframe.

Still, his roster management and talent evaluations more recently have left the program with questionable depth and need an overall upgrade in talent from top to bottom.

Of course, bringing in a new assistant coach is not a guaranteed solution to Wisconsin basketball and its perceived recruiting woes. It will still be up to Gard and his staff to build relationships with recruits, sell them on the program, and close the deal.

Only time will tell if Greg Gard agrees and decides to make this move. Still, it’s certainly an idea worth considering because if Wisconsin can elevate its recruiting efforts even marginally, It could get the Badgers back on track and over the hump.


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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of BadgerNotes.com, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.

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