By the looks of the 2017-18 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball recruiting class, UW’s recruiting identity appears due for a massive overhaul as the program takes a historical leap in the Greg Gard era.
While many recruits are still uncommitted, as of this week 247Sports.com has the Badgers pegged firmly as the nation’s fifth-best recruiting class for 2017-18. While gathering a top-10 recruiting class is an achievement by itself, what makes this feat most remarkable for Wisconsin is its potential to be the strongest recruiting class in the school’s history.
Most Badger fans would agree that when it comes to UW’s recruiting résumé in men’s basketball, it’s no secret the team has made a living through player development, not by immediate talent acquisition. As far as recruiting classes over the past decade, Wisconsin hasn’t managed a top-10 or even top-30 ranked class over that stretch.
But the Badgers’ history of recruiting compared to the program’s success is exactly what makes the likes of the 2017-18 class so intriguing. In fact, the 2017-18 recruiting class rank is already the best UW has amounted since 247Sports.com began ranking NCAA Division I basketball talent by season in 2003. And its superiority is by no slim margin either.
Next season’s incoming commitments are currently headlined by four-star recruits Kobe King and Nathan Reuvers, and three-star recruit Brad Davison. While college recruiting is known for its sudden, unexpected decommitments between a verbal commitment and national signing day, if all three commits wind up as Badgers come 2017, it will mark the first time Wisconsin lands two four-star recruits in the same class in over a decade.
Reuvers is perhaps the centerpiece of the Badgers’ 2017-18 recruiting class. Reuvers, a member of ESPN’s Top-100, is listed as the 86th-best overall recruit by the publication (70th-best by 247Sports.com), and the 15th-best center/power forward in the entire country. The 6-foot-10 rising senior excels in the paint by using his 220-lbs frame to command his presence beneath the rim.
The second four-star recruit in Wisconsin’s trifecta of 2017-18 commits is shooting guard Kobe King. Hailing from La Crosse, King is pegged by 247Sports.com as the third-best recruit in Wisconsin, as well as the 31st-best shooting guard in the nation.
The most recent commit from the class of 2017 is three-star recruit Brad Davison. Weighing a sturdy 190 and standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, Davison is ranked by 247Sports.com as the 27th-best overall point guard of his class. Keep in mind that the last three-star point guard recruited by Wisconsin was the Badgers’ starting point guard Bronson, who has the same frame and stands just one inch taller than Davison.
Despite the firepower the 2017-18 class already boasts, the excitement doesn’t end there — it could get even better.
Landing King was a major victory for Wisconsin, but the four-star recruit was only one of Wisconsin’s two top targets for the 2017-18 class.
Four-star recruit Justin Smith is one of the final remaining at-large recruits for the Badgers. Similar to Reuvers, he is a member of ESPN’s Top 100 recruits for the 2017 freshman class and ranked the 80th-best overall recruit in the country. There is fierce competition over him, however, with Stanford, Illinois and Indiana hot in the mix as well. But even if Wisconsin is unable to sign the prized recruit, it shouldn’t be a hindrance to success.
Over the last ten seasons, Wisconsin’s recruiting classes have averaged 58th in the nation overall and ninth in the Big Ten. Despite less than stellar recruiting grades off the court, the Badgers’ success on the court has given fans more than enough reason to trust the program’s system.
During this same 10-year stretch overall, the Badgers have averaged a third-place finish in the Big Ten regular season standings, a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament through ten appearances, and a .746 winning percentage.
If UW’s history of honing lesser-known recruits into nationally-acclaimed stars can be successfully combined with the kind of precedent set for Badger recruiting by new head coach Greg Gard, Wisconsin has the potential to unlock some of the greatest basketball the Badgers have ever seen.
Only two years ago during the same season that Wisconsin reached the NCAA national championship game, the Badgers’ 2014 recruiting class was ranked 120th in the country – seven spots lower than UW-Green Bay. Yet, the single three-star recruit from the Badgers’ 2014 class, Ethan Happ, went on to be named the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year after becoming an integral part of UW’s starting lineup in just his first season on the court.
Given Wisconsin’s track record of developing players such as three-star recruits Frank Kaminsky III or Ethan Happ, the new head start provided by Greg Gard’s recruiting ability could be the last missing step to adorning the Kohl Center with national championship banners.