It was one thing when the critic said inconsistency was holding back Frank Kaminsky, but the evaluation got really pointed when the word "soft" was used to describe the sophomore center for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team.
No athlete likes to be called soft, a point the critic acknowledged. Still, he said, there would be no backtracking on the evaluation.
Kaminsky doesn't always like what he sees when he looks in the mirror, and he's not afraid to admit it.
"I know that sometimes I play soft," Kaminsky said earlier this week, "and after I make a soft play I kind of mumble to myself about being stupid and how I need to play harder."
This isn't the assessment the 6-foot-11 Kaminsky thought he'd be making 12 games into a season that began with high expectations.
The Badgers were about 10 days into their preseason practices in October when UW coach Bo Ryan gushed about Kaminsky to ESPN.
"He's one of the most improved guys I've ever coached," Ryan said at the time. "He's really doing some nice things. It's going to be hard to keep him off the floor."
Kaminsky followed that up with a game-high 20 points in the Red-White scrimmage and a 12-point effort in an exhibition victory over UW-Oshkosh.
He started the first two games of the season but returned to the bench when senior forward Mike Bruesewitz began getting his legs back under him following a nasty leg injury. Since then, Kaminsky generally has found himself on the bench for about three-fourths of the game.
Kaminsky blames no one but himself for his uneven play during the non-conference season, which concludes Saturday afternoon when the Badgers (8-4) host Samford (3-10) at the Kohl Center.
"I've had some highs, I've had some lows," Kaminsky said. "I feel like sometimes I've been pretty effective and sometimes I've basically not even shown up. I just feel like I've got to get better on a consistent basis. Inconsistency is definitely something that could describe it."
To wit: Kaminsky appeared to be getting in a groove during a three-game stretch earlier this month when he scored 11 points against Nebraska-Omaha, seven against Marquette and eight against UW-Green Bay on a combined 9-for-14 shooting.
But Kaminsky followed that stretch up by missing all four of his field goal attempts and finishing with two points in a victory over UW-Milwaukee last Saturday. He did have four rebounds against the Panthers, matching his combined total from the previous five games.
Ryan certainly wasn't the only one to notice a big change in Kaminsky when the season began. All it took was one look at Kaminsky, who began the season around 225 pounds after finishing his freshman season pushing 250.
A better diet was the biggest reason for the weight loss, which Kaminsky felt was an absolute must if he was to make strides this year.
"I just know I hated playing when I was overweight," said Kaminsky, who averaged 1.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 7.7 minutes in 35 games last season. "I could feel myself getting worse and worse, and that was just a horrible feeling. I went home and my mom and dad would say, 'You looked like you gained weight,' and I didn't really like the sound of that. So I just changed it."
While doing a better job of finishing around the rim is biggest thing holding Kaminsky back, in his opinion, not getting down on himself on the court might be a close No. 2.
It helps that Kaminsky has some good people to turn to for advice. He speaks practically every day with his father, Frank Sr., who played collegiately at Lewis University near Chicago and later professionally in South America.
And Kaminsky has another source of information right in his own locker room. Senior forward Jared Berggren had more downs than ups early in his career but has developed into the Badgers' leading scorer as a senior.
Berggren knows as well as anyone that post players typically take some time to develop. Kaminsky has to keep telling himself that, even if he wants the growth to be instantaneous.
"The thing with Frank right now is he just needs to continue to play the game physical, keep it simple and do the little things well — be good at the things that don't take talent," UW associate head coach Greg Gard said.
"We talk about that a lot. And that's an area that we need to continue to grow in: Be good at the simple things of the game that can really pay big dividends. Because the times where we've taken bumps … it's been simple things that we haven't done properly that we need to make sure they become better habits."
Ryan's mother passes away
Ryan's mother, Louise, died Thursday in Florida. She was 86.
Ryan has taken advantage of breaks in the schedule three times this season to visit his parents. His father, Butch, is also struggling with health issues.
A 2003 State Journal story on Ryan and his parents described how Louise Ryan worked as a secretary and later an office manager at Widener University in Chester, Pa. When the business manager retired, Louise wanted the job but didn't have a college degree. But she talked to the college president, who said he'd give her the job if she took six accounting classes and got A's in each of them.
She did just that despite being in her early 50s at the time.
Ryan said in 2003 that he learned about perseverance from his mother.
"She's where you get the inner confidence from: Do your job, things will happen," Ryan said.