Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
Most top recruits out of high school don’t have Wisconsin on their short list when it is time for them to commit to a college hoops program. Badgers head coach Bo Ryan rarely pursues top-25 players from the prep ranks unless they fit well with his offensive philosophy. Swinging the ball around, using at least 25 to 30 seconds of the shot clock, and playing in an offense which is one of the slowest in the country (61 possessions per game) is not very appealing to the top recruits who don’t want to be held back. But Badger freshman Sam Dekker has been an exception to this trend. Highly touted as a senior (#13 by Rivals), he chose to head to Madison to play for Ryan. Dekker’s performance so far this season has been impressive at times but he hasn’t been seen consistent playing time yet — the limited minutes can be attributed to Ryan’s offensive system and his reliance on the upperclassmen who can play “Badger basketball.”
The 6’7″ wing has averaged about 22 minutes per game this season, while scoring an efficient 9.0 PPG along while pulling down 3.4 RPG. His minutes have been inconsistent because he is fourth on the depth chart of forwards this year behind Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz. All three seniors have been a significant part of Ryan’s teams over the last two years and understand the principles of his offense very well. They are very disciplined with their shot selection due to their maturity and are also quite physical on the defensive end of the floor. Without Josh Gasser in the lineup this year, the Badgers don’t have as many offensive options so they rely more than ever on using the shot clock efficiently and playing great team defense. Dekker, like most freshmen, is prone to turning the ball over at times or missing defensive assignments, which means more to Ryan’s teams because of fewer possessions. As a result, Ryan has only used the freshman off the bench but always seems to revert to his seniors during crunch time unless Dekker has played a perfect game. For example, during the recent 70-66 loss to Iowa, Dekker scored 13 points but was pulled during the second half because he had turned the ball over five times. During conference play (except against Illinois) the Badgers haven’t run away with any of their games and most of their wins have been within 10 points which pushes Dekker back to the bench because Ryan needs Breusewitz to defend the best wing during the final minutes. Dekker may be Ryan’s best pure scoring option but the combination of three senior forwards who exemplify the physical nature of the Badger’s defensive philosophy seems to be a better plan of attack for him so far this season.