The Wisconsin men’s basketball recruiting class of 2012 entered the Wisconsin State Tournament with eager Badger fans in attendance, waiting to catch a glimpse of the future.
But nobody could have expected the performances that would follow.
In a full-blown weekend spectacle, Wisconsin recruits Sam Dekker of Sheboygan Area Lutheran and Germantown’s Zak Showalter wowed Kohl Center crowds with their athleticism and heroics, leading both high school teams to their respective division state crowns.
If anyone in Wisconsin had a doubt about the talent or skills of Dekker it was buried beneath one of the most incredible weekends and performances in the history of the state tournament.
In the Division 5 championship game, it took all Dekker had and then some to defeat nemesis Racine Lutheran, a team that had already defeated Dekker and the Crusaders earlier this season. With his team down eight with a minute and nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Dekker took the game into his own hands, scoring his team’s last 12 points – part of his 18-point fourth quarter and 40-point game – including the game-winning three with four seconds remaining, and sealing one of the greatest performances in recent memory at the Kohl Center.
Down by two points, Dekker took the inbounds on the game’s final play, dribbled all the way down the floor and attempted a contested 3-pointer along the far wing and hit it to take the title.
“I was able to catch [the ball] with space and look up the floor and see what the situation was,” Dekker said. “During the timeout (before the play) I said that I wasn’t going to tie the game; I was going to win it. I came down (the floor) and I did it.
“I had to carry us in that last minute or two because I wanted to win so bad. Those guys knew I had it in me and I love it that they trust me to take those shots.”
Wisconsin’s highly anticipated recruit began the weekend by shouldering the offensive load for his team in the Crusaders’ Division 5 semifinal against McDonell Central Thursday afternoon. In a back-and-forth game between two very evenly matched teams – the lead exchanged hands 25 times – the deciding difference was Dekker. The senior forward scored 35 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer that gave his team the lead for good with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, en route to leading his team to a 63-61 victory.
On Friday, Dekker was announced as this year’s Mr. Basketball recipient in the state of Wisconsin. Not to disappoint, Dekker, the Badgers’ lone scholarship recruit in the 2012 class, vindicated the selection on the biggest possible stage.
When the dust settled, Dekker was named both Mr. Basketball and a state champion in a single weekend.
It’s Showalter time
While Dekker started the Division 5 championship game with an alley-oop dunk from teammate Tyler Zastrow, the dunk was, in fact, a response to future Badger teammate and roommate Zak Showalter.
Showalter, who will join Dekker at Wisconsin next year, opened his semifinal game with a thunderous slam over Madison Memorial’s Jamar Morris in Friday night’s Division 1 semifinal, leaving the Kohl Center buzzing for several possessions while sparking the dunk competition between the fellow recruits.
It was a moment that Showalter wanted Dekker to remember Saturday morning when the duo entered their respective championship games.
“[Saturday morning] Zak asked me if I was going to trump his opening tip dunk,” Dekker said. “And I said I’ll get one on the opening tip [of the championship game].”
While Dekker eventually answered the challenge, Showalter’s athleticism was on full display in Germantown’s trouncing of Madison Memorial, 81-43. The Germantown guard threw down multiple dunks against Madison Memorial while posting 22 points, nine assists and three steals.
Showalter said he could get used to the extra bounce the Kohl Center, his future home court, provides.
“That’s a pretty bouncy floor; I could get used to that,” Showalter said. “I found that out my freshman year. I remember (former Madison Memorial alum and current Marquette guard) Vander Blue dunking all over us, so I wanted to return the favor a little bit and get some payback on Memorial.”
Showalter, who will join the Badgers as a preferred walk-on next season, showed tenacity and leadership the entire tournament. He was forced to battle through foul trouble and a slow start to lift his team to the Division 1 state championship against Milwaukee King Saturday night.
Limited to playing just seven minutes in the first half because of two personal fouls, Showalter was relegated to the role of spectator as the guard watched Germantown battle Milwaukee King’s full-court trap defense without one of their primary ball-handlers and senior leaders.
In a championship game that featured seven lead changes, it was Showalter who led Germantown to glory in the second half. Scoring 16 of his total 22 points in the second half, Showalter never blinked against a physical, aggressive General defense as the senior led this team to a 72-69 victory and the Division 1 state title. The senior paced the Warhawks by viciously attacking the rim, getting to the free throw line 18 times and converting 15 of those attempts.
“This is indescribable,” Showalter said. “This is the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. We’ve worked so hard for this. We’ve been thinking about this our whole lives, and to be sitting here is remarkable. I’m at a loss for words; this is amazing.”
Germantown’s victory in the Division 1 championship game also capped a perfect 28-0 season.
“To share this moment with my oldest son, with both my sons, is just incredible,” Germantown head coach Steve Showalter said. “It’s just a magical, unbelievable night, and this whole ride has been incredible.”
When the final horn sounded on Germantown’s victory against Milwaukee King, the results for Dekker and Showalter were final as well. The two future Badgers recorded a combined 119 points, 37 rebounds, 20 assists and 11 blocks. As both walked off their future home court for the last time as high school players, each hoisted the gold ball of the championship trophy.