In the case of Chucky Hepburn, it’s his solid all-around game that stands out on the Badgers squad.
An example of this prowess was clear in the turning point of the Texas A&M game — when Brad Davison received a rebound, dribbled down to midcourt and passed to Hepburn, who gracefully took one dribble and nailed a step-up 3-pointer.
Down 26–12, Hepburn’s 3-point shot inspired a 25–7 run to end the half against Texas A&M. Flash forward to the next day when Wisconsin faced Houston, the No. 12 team in the country. Led by star shooting guard Marcus Sasser, Houston has a prolific offense. But Hepburn held Sasser to 11 points, and Wisconsin’s upset victory can be largely attributed to Hepburn’s defensive contributions.
Badger fans, learn the name — Chucky Hepburn. These are the types of plays Badger fans can get accustomed to seeing from Hepburn, a true freshman point guard, who adds a wealth of versatility to the Badgers lineup that is highlighted by his tremendous defensive skills.
At Bellevue High School in Nebraska, Hepburn developed into a highly touted recruit, receiving early offers from Nebraska, Minnesota, Creighton and Wisconsin, amongst other notable schools. Hepburn was a four-year starter, leading his squad to the state championship in three of his four seasons. Hepburn committed to Wisconsin in September 2019, before his junior basketball season.
The Badgers were affirmed of their commitment to Hepburn when he had a stellar junior year, where he won the 2020 Gatorade Nebraska Boys Basketball Player of the Year. In addition to his individual accomplishments, Hepburn spearheaded Bellevue High School’s Class A state championship in 2020.
Everyone around Hepburn knows he’s a big-game player, and he has the experience and mentality to prove it. As a senior, Hepburn averaged 16 points, five rebounds, 8.3 assists and 3.8 steals per game. In entirety, Hepburn totaled 1,706 points, 638 assists and 328 steals in his high school career.
Throughout high school, coaches raved about Hepburn’s ability to noticeably impact a game. Describing himself as a “pass-first point guard,” Hepburn established strong offensive habits including exceptional court vision and high basketball IQ.
“Obviously Chucky brings unique gifts in terms of on-the-court things,” said Doug Woodard, his high school coach, when asked by the Omaha World Herald about Hepburn. “Elite vision and instincts, he makes those around him better by getting easy shots for them, extremely strong and a great lane finisher with a very good mid-range game.”
Furthermore, coaches praised his robust leadership qualities, great intangibles and terrific instincts.
When Badger fans saw the starting lineup for their opening game against St. Francis Brooklyn, some may have thought there was a misprint. Why? A true freshman was in the starting lineup.
Typically loaded with upperclassmen, the Wisconsin program rewards experience and consistency over raw talent. It is not in the Badger DNA to start true freshmen.
This year’s Badgers squad is stamped with a different genetic blueprint, however, as they have one of their younger teams in decades. Front-lining this trend is Chucky Hepburn, who is the first true freshman to start in the season opener for Wisconsin since Devin Harris in the 2001-2002 opener. Harris, an eventual lottery pick in the NBA, was a star for Wisconsin.
Everyone in the Badger nation hopes and thinks Hepburn can join the esteemed class of Badger greats. After all, Hepburn has the duty to fill in the shoes of the great point guards that came before him — such as D’Mitrik Trice, Bronson Koenig and Jordan Taylor, among many others.
Though he has high expectations, Hepburn can become a Badger legend as he pushes the pace, plays hard and has great leadership qualities. Perhaps his most valuable attribute includes his ability to positively influence the game without stuffing the stat sheet. It is difficult to quantify what Hepburn means to this team, as he exemplifies the definition of an all-around player.
While it is extremely early in the season, Hepburn has shown flashes of greatness. In the Maui Invitational Championship game against St. Mary’s, Hepburn made an incredible switch off a pick and roll which resulted in an eventual steal.
“Great switch there,” ESPN’s esteemed college basketball analyst, Jay Bilas, praised Hepburn. “Incredible defense from Hepburn there. He has tremendous defensive instincts for a true freshman.”
On the other hand, the Omaha native still shows flashes of his youth. While early in the season, he has had some shooting struggles and has had instances in which his inexperience leads to turnovers.
Through it all, Hepburn remains humble and hungry, and it is clear he is ready to help the Badgers in any way possible, as he said in an interview after the St. Francis Brooklyn game on Nov. 9.
“I think I came in ready to start but I’ve got to clean up some things defensively and offensively,” Hepburn said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The two turnovers I had I shouldn’t have had.”
The Badgers are off to a strong start and hopeful for a bright basketball future, and Hepburn is sure to play a pivotal role in the Badgers’ success in the years to come.