Excitement is an Understatement

Excitement is an Understatement

The Wisconsin coaches knew since last summer that Sheboygan Area Lutheran forward Sam Dekker was going to sign his letter of intent to play at Wisconsin on the second Wednesday in November. What made today so thrilling for them was how excited they were to finally talk about it. Assistants Greg Gard and Gary Close talk to Badger Nation.

MADISON - Almost 17 months later, the Wisconsin basketball staff can finally talk about Sheboygan Area Lutheran forward Sam Dekker, one of biggest recruits Bo Ryan has ever signed in his tenure at the University of Wisconsin.

Dekker officially signed his letter of intent Wednesday on the first day of the fall signing period and is the only scholarship member of the Badgers' 2012 recruiting class.

"He's a great kid," associate coach Greg Gard said of Dekker. "I think he's a better person than he is a player. He's constantly concerned about his team and making sure everybody around him is happy and satisfied. His ethics, his morals and his values, it doesn't get any better than that. He's a home run as a person and as a player, he's a guy that has constantly got better. He put so much time into his game … and taken his game to a whole new level drastically.

"We couldn't be happier. We are getting the total package with Sam."

Dekker – 6-8, 215 pounds - is rated a four-star recruit and the No.6 small forward in the country, making him the highest ranked recruit since Appleton West center Brian Butch (rated a five-star recruit and the No.3 center in the country) in 2003. When he committed in June 2010, he wasn't close to that level. Originally ranked as a three-star prospect in the mid 40s, Dekker had a torrid AAU season for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors, earning Top Performer honors by Scout.com in the Spiece Run N' Slam Classic in Fort Wayne, Ind., the Adidas May Classic on the campus of Indiana in spring and got better as the summer went along.

"He deserved the credit for it," said assistant coach Gary Close. "He's obviously talented, but talent can only take you so far and hard work can take you a lot farther. He loves the game, he's consumed by the game and wants to be a great player. He's put the time and effort into it. He likes challenges and he wanted to go out this summer and play well. He certainly did that."

Always having the ability to be a good defender with solid range, good inside-outside game and touch from the perimeter, Dekker's work on increasing his upper body strength, ball handling and becoming a better physical post presence was reflected in his work.

"His whole game has developed and it's probably been one of the most enjoyable things we watched," Close said. "He really completed the whole circle in terms of improving his game."

Averaging 26.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game during his sophomore year, Dekker averaged 28.8 points per game his junior season, scoring in double figures in 24 of 25 games, scoring 20+ points 21 times, scoring 30+ points 10 times and breaking the 50-point mark twice.

"The biggest jump came this past spring," Gard said. "He had a great junior season and goes into the spring AAU so confident and so aggressive. He scored in so many ways. He was at our camp and really made a splash in June at the NBA Players Association camp. That's the top players in the country and the extra work he put in drew a lot of praise."

As big as Dekker's commitment is, getting Germantown shooting guard Zak Showalter to commit as a preferred walk-on in August allows the Badgers to bank their other remaining scholarship for the 2013 recruiting class. Showalter certainly was scholarship worthy, fielding offers from Dayton, Drake, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Missouri State, North Dakota State, Rice and South Dakota State.

Showalter - a 6-2 combo guard - averaged 19 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists per game for Germantown, who finished 24-2 last season and reached the quarterfinals of the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. He was a consensus first-team all-state pick for coach Steve Showalter, Zak's father who is a former player of Ryan's at UW-Platteville.

Wisconsin's high interest in Showalter began at the end of the summer evaluation when Ryan watched him play in Las Vegas and the Wisconsin Dells.

UW coaches can't comment on Showalter under he goes through the UW admission process.

The Badgers' one-person signing class means Wisconsin has some flexibility with an open scholarship heading into the season, allowing Wisconsin to continue to monitor players and transfers to see if the right fit arises.

"You don't analyze one class by itself as much as looking how it fits with the group behind of it and ahead of it," Gard said. "Not knowing how the deck may get reshuffled and all the things that can happen, you look at how it fits with our program and how it fits down the road. I think anybody in the country would take a Sam Dekker on their roster and for him to chose Wisconsin without really blinking an eye, saying this is where he wanted to go, shows what this program has accomplished."

Bo Ryan comments on Dekker

"We're obviously very excited to have Sam join our program. He brings the entire package to Wisconsin," Ryan said. "Sam possesses all of the first-class intangibles that you want in someone representing your program on the court, in the classroom and in the community.

"He has been a very active leader in his school, an honor roll student, a National Honor Society member, volunteers for Special Olympics and has served various leadership roles in his church and community. He's truly a great young man.

"From a basketball perspective, his length and skill set will allow him to play different positions and as he develops and adds strength to his frame, he will be a great fit within our system. He's got a great knowledge base of the game. He can handle the ball like a guard with excellent court vision and passing ability and a perimeter shooting game that has rapidly improved.

"Our staff is really excited about what the future could hold as Sam continues to grow and develop. His maturation and development have exploded since last season which made him the talk of the country this past July during the national AAU events. With extreme hard work and dedication, Sam has made himself into truly one of the elite players in the country in his class over the past 18 months.

"Given the fact that he could have gone just about anywhere he wanted, but decided that he wanted to pursue his dream of being a Wisconsin Badger, is extremely special and a testament to what the players here before him have accomplished. His decision also speaks volumes to how this program, along with the success and development of the players within it, is now viewed from a national perspective.

"Sam's a first-class young man, with parents, in Todd, who's also his high school coach, and Carol that have done a fantastic job of setting high expectations for him and holding him accountable at an early age. It definitely paid off for him both on and off the court. Badger fans should be excited to watch Sam grow and develop during his career in Madison. I know he's ready to have a great senior year at Lutheran and then will be ready take the next step here with his future team."

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