David Stluka/UW Athletic Comm
Frank Kaminsky adds another souvenir to his string collection.
So many storylines, so little space. The University of Wisconsin’s second trip to the Final Four in as many years has been memorable for, among other things, Sam Dekker’s grace-under-pressure shooting, Zak Showalter’s clutch performances off the bench and Nigel Hayes’ charming sense of humor.
But imagine if 7-foot senior Frank Kaminsky, who’s averaging 18.7 points per game this season, had bolted to the NBA following last year’s heartbreaking one-point Final Four loss to Kentucky (the team the Badgers will face again Saturday, and a program that built its reputation on sending players to the pros before they earn college degrees).
Kaminsky wouldn’t have earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors and be a top candidate for national player of the year. He wouldn’t have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated a couple weeks ago wearing his uniform and standing in snow with a real tank behind him, either. And he certainly wouldn’t have led all players with 29 points in UW’s convincing 85-78 victory over Arizona last Saturday night — a win that should erase any lingering doubts about whether the Badgers deserved to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
In fact, without Kaminsky, I probably wouldn’t even still be writing about Badgers basketball in April.
Kaminsky’s commendable commitment to college while playing a sport in which it’s commonplace to turn pro early is nothing new. He’s repeatedly talked about the value of making the most of the college experience, and he talked some more about it following the win over Arizona. “You come back to school for moments like this, to share it with your teammates, your friends, the people you’ve been with the last four years of your life, very significant people that are going to be in the rest of your life, as well,” he told Madison.com.
The money, as Kaminsky has also acknowledged, will still be there. And because he’s a hot commodity, the dollars are bound to be more than he could have commanded a year ago.
For now, though, Kaminsky — along with Dekker and the rest of the Badgers — could be the team to finally knock off Kentucky and its batch of undefeated underclassmen. The Badgers are peaking at the perfect time.
Tipoff is Saturday at 7:49 p.m. on TBS, and I’ve rearranged my plans to witness potential history in the making. So should you.