Before Becoming a Badger

From Jon Leuer to Frank Kaminsky and Ethan Happ, it’s almost impossible to overlook signature big men at the University of Wisconsin. Dominance down low is a generational theme in Madison, and Tyler Wahl, a six-foot-nine forward in his third year, wearing red and white, aims to climb the ranks and join Badger royalty.

The junior’s basketball roots extend far beyond growing up in Minnesota. In fact, his father, Tim, played professional basketball internationally in Germany and Holland after starring at Mankato State University. Like his son, he was also a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball Award in 1977.

Wahl shined as an upperclassman at Lakeville North High School in Minnesota, where he played alongside former Badger teammate Nate Reuvers. In his junior season, he accounted for 17.5 points, 12 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 5.4 assists per game while shooting 63.1% from the field, leading the 27–5 Panthers to the 2018 Class AAAA State Tournament Semifinals.

The next year, he was recognized as a Mr. Basketball finalist and Minneapolis Star Tribune All-Metro Team member while putting up 18 points, 10 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Lakeville North finished the year with another 27–5 record, garnering a conference title and a bid to the Class AAAA state championship match. Unanimously, he earned two All-South Suburban Conference selections and repeated as a member of the conference’s All-Defensive Team from 2018 to 2019.

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Wahl concluded his high school career by capturing the school record for rebounds (905) and finishing third all-time in scoring (1,397), becoming one of the most distinguished athletes to ever don a Panther jersey. Despite offers from Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa State and Butler, he committed to UW on June 21, 2018, as a revered recruit.

Wahl’s Career in Madison

As a true freshman, Wahl made an appearance in all 31 games, averaging 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds over 15.5 minutes per bout. The newcomer didn’t shy away from the national stage during his first year, as he notched three steals and snatched seven rebounds in a triumph over top-five Ohio State in January. About two months later, in a seven-point win against No. 19 Michigan, the forward scored five crucial points to upset the Wolverines.

During the offseason, Wahl sprouted two inches and put on some added weight — he entered the 2020–2021 campaign at 6’9”, 220, personifying the “big man” position. His sophomore season certainly didn’t disappoint as he started in 18 consecutive games to end the season while recording 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds across 24.7 minutes per contest. He also exhibited his defensive capabilities, grabbing 31 steals and swatting away 21 shot attempts over 31 games.

Against Green Bay in Dec. 2020, Wahl secured his first double-double with 11 points, 15 (yes, 15) rebounds, two blocks and two steals. The sophomore dominated in January, and he racked up a 12-point, three-steal performance versus Indiana, another double-double at Penn State and a team-high 14 points and six rebounds versus Northwestern. Not only did Wahl gobble up more rebounds and progress into a high-volume defender, but he became more assertive on both sides of the ball. He reached the free-throw line 43 more times and registered 26 more blocks, trends that Greg Gard hopes will blossom even further as Wahl enters his junior year.

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With the departures of forwards Aleem Ford, Micah Potter and Reuvers, who each appeared in all 31 contests last season, Wahl will have an opportunity to solidify himself as a sure-fire starter and showcase his scoring ability. As an experienced big who can defend multiple positions, rebound effectively and put the ball on the floor, the Minnesota-native will serve as the Badger’s most pivotal piece down low.

Given that the six-foot-nine forward doesn’t require the rock to be effective, he should mesh well with sophomore Johnny Davis and super-senior Brad Davidson. Look for Tyler Wahl to establish himself as an elite defensive threat and low-post bucket-getter as the season progresses.