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Wisconsin Basketball: Growth From Role Players Is Promising



Wisconsin Basketball

It was a disappointing night for Wisconsin Basketball fans Thursday, leaving the Kohl Center after yet another final-second loss.

UW played their hearts out all night but again failed to close out a game they led with just minutes remaining. No surprise though, Greg Gard’s team fell into another offensive dry spell and failed to stop No. 5 Purdue on key possessions. It’s been their achilles heel all year and showed up big time Thursday night.

Struggles Apparent, But Future Bright For Wisconsin Basketball

It’s been extremely painful to watch the struggles on both ends of the floor at times. But there have been a number of positives to take away down the stretch. A big one has been the noticeable growth of Wisconsin role players. Between Max Klesmit, Connor Essegian, Kamari McGee, and Isaac Lindsey, player growth is apparent.

Let’s break down the player development that has me looking forward to the 2023-2024 season.

1. Max Klesmit

Klesmit has been a pleasant surprise for Badger basketball fans this season. The Wofford transfer and Neenah native has been one of the top perimeter guard defenders in the Big 10 and possibly the country — the defense dropped off a cliff when he missed time due to injury. Down the final few games of Big 10 play, though, it’s been his offensive game that has me excited.

Against Purdue and Michigan Klesmit averaged 19 points per game. He shot over 60 percent from three, and around 60 percent from the field. He’s been a reliable free throw shooter and ran the offense at times, allowing Chucky Hepburn to play off the ball. Klesmit has always been known as a great shooter and slasher on the offensive end. Now the guard is finally showing decisiveness as a playmaker. The sky is the limit with him as he will have his fingerprint on the program for a while. Coach Gard can’t get enough props from me on this transfer portal find.

2. Connor Essegian

Growth has been apparent ever since Essegian was inserted into the starting lineup early in Big 10 play. His minutes have continued to jump, and so have his shot attempts and confidence. Fans and analysts rave about his three-point shot, the quick release, and the shooting range he boasts. When it comes to his development, what has impressed me most is his ability to create and get to the hoop — even in traffic and against bigger defenders.

CE3, as he’s been nicknamed, is a fearless freshman. This was most apparent down the stretch in the second half against Purdue when Gard had the confidence to go him late. He got the ball on the left wing and attacked the hoop with no hesitation, making a close-range bucket over two Purdue defenders. Impressive as he realized big man Zach Edey was out of the game at the time and he could capitalize.

3. Kamari McGee

McGee was held scoreless in his six minutes against Purdue on Thursday night, but the sophomore transfer from UW-Green Bay has impressed with his ability to calmly run the offense and play tough defense. He’s been a firecracker off the bench when called upon, most recently against Michigan when he tallied 6 points, a steal, and 3 rebounds.

The same couldn’t be said earlier this year when he rarely saw minutes, was sloppy with basketball, and hesitant to shoot or go to the hoop. McGee will likely never be a 15+ minutes-a-game guy, barring injury, but he’s proven to be a great ball handler and shooter when Chucky Hepburn needs a break.

4. Isaac Lindsey

The UNLV transfer and Mineral Point native showed up big time against Purdue. At the end of the first half, Lindsey took over and scored 8 points with defenders draped all over him. His ability to create and make tough jump shots has clearly been visible in limited time this year. To me, this is huge for an offensively challenged Wisconsin basketball team. Lindsey will need to improve his defense and overall court awareness to crack the rotation, but his growth and scoring potential are eye-opening.

Player Development Crucial For Wisconsin Basketball

An open criticism many Wisconsin basketball fans have had of coach Gard is his ability to develop players. A few players didn’t turn into what was expected or transferred. Ben Carlson, Matthew Mors, and Lorne Bowman to name a few.

But it’s been impossible to miss what Gard has done with a number of players during his tenure. He turned Tyler Wahl into a playmaking forward and scorer with great footwork down low. Helped Johnny Davis make the jump from role player to NBA Draft prospect. Most recently he turned Steven Crowl from a frail and hesitant player to a go-to scorer with poise down low. These are just a few of many. Now add Klesmit, McGee, Essegian, and even Lindsey to this list. This group has been fun to watch grow this season. I honestly can’t wait to see them alongside guys like big man Gus Yalden next year.

Let’s power through the last few games of the season Wisconsin basketball fans. It hasn’t been pretty at times, but now you can spend the final few games watching the future develop. The depth coach Gard is putting together is making for something special.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Trent Tetzlaff on Twitter @ttetz5.

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Wisconsin Basketball: Jordan Davis Enters the Transfer Portal



Wisconsin basketball

Jordan Davis has entered his name into the transfer portal

According to a report from Verbal Commits, Wisconsin basketball guard Jordan Davis has entered the transfer portal.

The news comes shortly after Wisconsin’s loss in the NIT semifinals to North Texas after a brutal second half. Davis saw 11 minutes of action in the loss without scoring a point.

The 2022-23 season was a rocky one for Davis. The LaCrosse native was a starter early in the season before losing his spot to budding true freshman Connor Essegian. After that, he was a good option off the bench who could get a few baskets per game while hitting the boards hard.

Davis averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season while shooting nearly 40% from the floor. He averaged 21 minutes per game, a considerable jump from his 6.5 minutes in 2022. Davis carved out a role for himself as a high-intensity player who played with grit.

The 6-foot-4 200-pound guard will look for a better option to reach his full potential. Davis’ decision to transfer isn’t too shocking, considering he lost a starting spot and saw a dip in production as the season ended. Although things didn’t work out in Madison, a change of scenery could be what he needs.

Davis wasn’t a highly recruited player out of high school, but after putting some solid tape out there in his time at UW, he should garner some attention in the portal.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin basketball news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter. @JakeJMaier.

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Wisconsin Basketball: 2022-2023 Player Grades



Wisconsin basketball

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.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Trent Tetzlaff on Twitter @ttetz5.

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Wisconsin Basketball Recruiting: 2019 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball Enters Transfer Portal



Wisconsin basketball head coach Greg Gard must find added depth in the transfer portal

After a disappointing finish to the season, Wisconsin basketball head coach Greg Gard is tasked with improving his roster in the transfer portal. The Badgers lacked depth this season, particularly in the frontcourt. One of the latest players to enter the portal may be a great fit for UW.

Wisconsin Native Marcus Domask Enters Transfer Portal

Marcus Domask announced via Twitter that he is entering the transfer portal. The Waupun native spent four seasons at Southern Illinois and consistently performed as a top forward in the Missouri Valley Conference. The former three-star recruit earned All-MVC Second Team honors in 2020 and 2022 and was named to the First Team this season. Domask started the first ten games of the 2021 season before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

Wisconsin’s 2019 Mr. Basketball averaged 16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 0.4 steals per game this season for the Salukis – leading his team in each category. The six-foot-six-inch, 215-pound forward can score from all three levels. He is able to score from the inside and get to the foul line. Domask shot 87.6% from the charity stripe this season – Connor Essegian and Markus Ilver were the only players on the Wisconsin basketball roster with a better FT% than Domask’s mark this season. Ilver, however, only had two attempts. The MVC star can shoot from long range too. Domask has a 35.9% three-point percentage on 4.3 attempts per game.

Wisconsin basketball did not offer Domask a scholarship out of high school, but will likely inquire about his interest in returning closer to home now. The former WIAA State Champion for Waupun High School will have one year of eligibility remaining. He is also pursuing the NBA Draft, but will retain his collegiate eligibility.

RELATED: Wisconsin Basketball Starter Enters Transfer Portal

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Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Kedrick Stumbris on Twitter @KedrickStumbris.

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