Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s Basketball: Fresh faces, fresh threads

Transfers, freshmen in roster headline UW’s quest for excellence this winter
Justin Mielke

While the University of Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team returns 90% of its scoring production from a season ago, the buzz surrounding the team leading up to the 2023-24 campaign centers around the immediate contributions made by new roster additions.

Head coach Greg Gard reeled in an exciting 2023 recruiting class, highlighted by four-star big man Gus Yalden and a pair of three-star recruits in Nolan Winter and John Blackwell. The Badgers also landed former four-star recruit and current sophomore AJ Storr from St. Johns through the transfer portal.

Fans got their first look at the new Badgers during the team’s Red vs. White scrimmage, a yearly event that splits the Badgers’ roster in half and pits teammates against one another.


Though star forward Tyler Wahl — who was recently named to the preseason watchlist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award — led the game with 16 points and four rebounds, it was newcomers Storr and Winter who stole the show.

Storr got the Kohl Center rocking early in the scrimmage, skying through the lane to hammer home an alley-oop from Kamari McGee during a fast break. He finished with a team-high 15 points and took a game-high 13 shots during his 30 minutes of action.

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Storr’s eye-popping athleticism is paired with a sweet shooting stroke. The sophomore knocked down 40.4% of his 3-point attempts last year at St. John’s.

Storr only received 21.1 minutes per game last season as a true freshman. But he did notch 17 starts and log 8.8 points per game, all while consistently making highlight plays.

Winter also impressed on the day, showcasing his unique skill set at 6-foot-11. The big man knocked down two of his four 3-point attempts, snagged 12 rebounds and secured a combined three steals and blocks. He was a dominating presence inside and finished with a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double.

While Yalden and Blackwell were significantly quieter, each played quality defense and competed hard despite the off-days.

Though the Red vs. White scrimmage was purely recreational and none of these players have played a true minute in the cardinal and white, they’ve all managed to make an impact this season by adding depth and putting pressure on returning players to improve.

“We’ve got competition in practice at all positions,”Coach Gard said during a press conference earlier this year. “When you have that competition around you, you can’t get complacent.”

For a team that missed the NCAA Tournament in 2022-23, the added level of intensity is welcomed.

Carter Gilmore, a key rotation piece from last year’s squad, said that the freshmen have been impressive in coming in and competing daily. He specifically praised Winter and Blackwell.

“You see Nolan [Winter] getting tips or rebounds and making plays, you got John running up and down [the floor] getting into you defensively,” Gilmore said. “[It] gives you depth and helps everyone grow.”

Senior guard Max Klesmit also shared high marks for some of the newcomers, calling Blackwell a hardworker.

“You can feel his energy on the court, and it feeds off on other teammates,” Klesmit said.

Klesmit seemed especially excited to talk about Storr.

The sophomore showcased his leaping ability with Badger faithful during the scrimmage, but it’s something his teammates knew about all along.

“I’ve never seen anybody leave the floor and float before,” Klesmit said. “[He’s] unworldly athletic.”

While both have their unique characteristics, Klesmit noted that Storr and Blackwell each came to Madison ready to work and with winning intentions.

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Dating back to legendary head coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin is notable for not relying heavily on freshmen. But, with the emergence of Connor Essegian last season and the prominent shortcomings of last year’s team, opportunities have begun to form for the newcomers.

Of 352 teams last season, Wisconsin ranked 334th in bench points at 12.03 points per game and 317th in rebounding margin. They also finished in the bottom half of the nation in field goal percentage (41.4%), free throw percentage (69.1%) and 3-point percentage (34.2%) to earn the 140th spot in offensive efficiency.

Given his dominant performance in the Red vs. White scrimmage, Winter could be the first of the freshmen big guys to see the floor. Slotting in as the fourth piece in the front court alongside Wahl, Steven Crowl and Gilmore, Winter should have the opportunity to assist in the rebounding department and use his shooting ability to stretch the floor and open up the offense.

After showing flashes of greatness in his freshman campaign, Storr will likely have opportunities to land a starting role or be the top option off the bench for Wisconsin. His explosiveness and ability to get to the rim is direly needed for a roster that finished near the bottom of the barrel in free throw attempts last year.

While tip-off is still over a week away, the four fresh faces in the Badgers’ locker room have already been making contributions and are slated to have bright futures in Madison.

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