If you watched the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team at all during the 2022-2023 season, it wouldn’t be a reach to say you may have grown a grey hair or twelve in the process.
Close game after close game, blown leads, head-scratching calls, and unwatchable scoring droughts. It’s not hard to summarize the season it was for Wisconsin basketball.
But it wasn’t always like watching an elementary school orchestra play their first concert. A lot of Badgers made major strides and big plays in important moments. Here are my player grades for the 2022-2023 Wisconsin basketball rotation.
2022-2023 Wisconsin Basketball Grades – Starters
Tyler Wahl: C+
I was super high on Wahl entering the year. I honestly thought he’d have a huge senior season, improve his jumper, and compete for a Big Ten conference honor. Boy was I wrong.
Wahl battled a nagging injury for a good chunk of the season, but his inability to make easy layups and convert at the free-throw line killed any hopes of making a run to the big dance.
Chucky Hepburn: B-
It was a tale of two Chucky’s this season. The sophomore point guard was either unconscious from the field or a borderline “bricklayer”. Hepburn battled an undisclosed lower-body injury down the stretch, which probably played a part. But nonetheless, his season was a bust.
Hepburn never became the go-to scorer Wisconsin Basketball had hoped for. However, on a team that struggled to find scoring, Hepburn was consistently followed by the opposing team’s best defender. I wouldn’t go as far to say he regressed, but his growth seemed to be rather limited while in his large role. Hepburn needs some more help around him to thrive.
Steven Crowl: A-
“Big Steve” really grew up this season which earned him an A-. The junior center was thrust into a go-to scorer role when Hepburn was struggling mid-way through the year and Wahl was out with his injury. I’d be lying if I said he didn’t impress with his scoring and passing ability — especially during his 30-plus point effort against Bradley. Big things remain ahead for Crowl.
Max Klesmit: B
Klesmit turned out to be the biggest surprise of the season for UW. He played a major role offensively and was the team’s best perimeter defender. When he missed time with an injury, the Badgers defensive efficiency dropped. The Neenah native grew into a major role player this season, and I’d say the sky is the limit for him next year as he continues to gain confidence.
Connor Essegian: B+
It seemed to be a tale of two seasons within a season for the Freshman shooting guard. Essegian impressed fans, coaches, and teammates with his natural shooting and scoring abilities beginning in non-conference play, and into Big 10 play. His breakout 17-point game against Kansas, in a near-upset, garnered attention nationally and eventually pushed him into a starting spot which he never lost. However, Essegian hit a freshman wall as Big 10 play came to a close and it continued into the NIT. Without this drop-off, Essegian would’ve had an easy A.
2022-2023 Wisconsin Basketball Grades – Reserves
Jordan Davis: D+
Davis lost his starting spot midway through the season to Essegian after struggling to consistently hit shots and make an impact on the offensive end. At times Davis showed grit and gave the team a spark off the bench with threes or hustle plays, but outside of these small windows he really disappointed. The junior guard only reached double figures in scoring three times. If Davis can improve his jumper and confidence, he could be a great bench piece for Wisconsin basketball next season.
Carter Gilmore: C
If there was an award for the player who showed the highest motor with stats that don’t show up on paper, Gilmore would have won it this season. The former walk-on was put in a tough position at 6’7″ to play power forward or even center at times when Crowl or Wahl were on the bench. Gilmore is a solid athlete, who at times was great on the glass and on the defensive end, but his offensive limitations continue to hold him back. You know teams don’t see you as a threat offensively when their defenders can sag into the paint and not worry about you pulling the trigger. I’m interested to see what happens with Gilmore moving forward.
Kamari McGee: C
The Racine native played an integral role in the rotation down the stretch for UW, but his struggles to settle in early on in the season were definitely noticeable. Although he didn’t show a ton as a scorer or as a defender at times — the promise he showed down the stretch and into the NIT was worthy of a C. McGee showed spurts as a ball handler and as a “three and D” type of role player which gives me hope he can grow his role next season.
Markus Ilver: D-
I don’t really have much to say regarding Ilver, other than it became apparent that he was NOT afraid to shoot the ball immediately after getting into a game. He lacked on defense and rebounding most of the time, but his three-point touch and quick release show some promise.
Isaac Lindsey: C-
Lindsey showed off his ability to create and hit shots down the stretch in his limited minutes. His best outing came when he closed the first half against Purdue with eight points, singlehandedly keeping UW in the game. It’s apparent Lindsey must struggle too much defensively and as a consistent ball handler to get consistent minutes. I’ll give him a C- for his hot shooting when he did get into games.
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