While a lot attention is focused around the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s first few games of the season, the coaching staff have another big development approaching. Next week is National Signing Day, which will give Badger fans insight about which incoming freshman will take one last remaining scholarship spot.
In the NCAA, each team is allowed 13 scholarship spots, meaning at least four to five players are walk-ons. This season Wisconsin has one senior in this scholarship slot, Chris Vogt (Brad Davison has a “free” spot due to COVID-19), meaning once he leaves there is one spot up for grabs in the 2022 recruiting class.
The question is — who will receive that single spot and put on the cardinal and white in 2022? As COVID-19 has slowly brought on in-person recruiting, the Badgers have taken interest in several high-level talents around the country.
When it comes to who will take the single scholarship spot for 2022, Connor Essegian has been the most obvious choice for nearly two months. Essegian verbally committed earlier this fall, seemingly cementing himself as the scholarship player for next season.
Essegian has the tools to fill in a lot of the gaps that are inevitable after this season. While the Badgers will be losing Davison, a proud leader and shooting threat, they will also be missing the interior defense Vogt provides. Essegian will not be a rim protector at the level of Vogt, but with players like Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson coming into their own in the paint, that role is not one the Badgers need to immediately fill.
Essegian would bring raw shooting ability and playmaking to the Badgers offense. With Davison gone next year, the question of who will take up his scoring output will be glaring in the offense — and Essegian could be the answer.
At six-foot-four, Essegian will be able to post up guards very similarly to Davison’s gritty style. With great energy and scoring ability, Essegian is an exciting addition to what is a promising young squad.
While all signs point to Essegian as the man who puts pen to paper and joins the ranks of Midwest guards like Sam Dekker and Brevin Pritzl, it is intriguing to think what else may be.
One such inquiry is to think about how recruits like Braeden Moore will fit in this coming fall. Moore, a former Rutgers commit out of Nashville, was recruited by the Badgers over the summer and is the No. 65 power forward in the country.
Moore is one of the few national players to transfer to play for Kanye West’s Donda Academy for his senior year of high school. Moore’s move has given him some national attention, which has honestly overshadowed his ability as a player.
There is a very slim chance the Badgers choose to target Moore over an already enthusiastic and talented Essegian. In another situation, Moore would have been an exciting addition to a squad already loaded with height in the coming year.
Moore, unlike Essegian, is a new-wave big, meaning he is pushing seven-foot with a smooth stroke from three and a decent handle on the ball. Even with the buzz that would come with landing Moore, I see him fitting in far less seamlessly than Essegian.
While Essegian will fill both a shooting and scoring gap, Moore would be yet another lengthy big who could step out to the four. With starters like Crowl and bench players like Carlson and Markus Ilver, Moore would likely have to take a backseat for one if not two years.
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As the Badgers look to sign Essegian officially, there should be little doubt they are making the right choice with their 2022 scholarship spot.
Where Moore would have been an intriguing player, Essegian is the piece that will be missing in a young team. As a loaded 2021 sophomore class gets more experience over this season, a powerful future lies ahead for the Badgers, a future made even brighter by the prospect of getting Essegian in the coming season.