UW men's basketball: Dekker's omission from McDonald's roster a super-sized letdown for Badgers

2012-02-13T05:00:00Z 2012-02-13T06:10:49Z UW men's basketball: Dekker's omission from McDonald's roster a super-sized letdown for BadgersJIM POLZIN | Wisconsin State Journal | jpolzin@madison.com | 608-252-6473 | @JimPolzinWSJ madison.com

Not only would his inclusion on the 2012 McDonald's All-American Game roster have been a great reward for University of Wisconsin men's basketball recruit Sam Dekker, it would have been a boost for the Badgers' image as well.

Image isn't everything in the world of recruiting, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt UW coach Bo Ryan and his assistants to have a McDonald's All-American in the fold as they try to convince other blue-chip high school players to commit to the Badgers.

Much to the disappointment of Dekker and the UW staff, the 6-foot-8 senior forward from Sheboygan Lutheran wasn't one of the 24 players selected to the prestigious game last week. Dekker is No. 18 in Scout.com's rankings of the best players in the 2012 class, while ESPN.com has him at No. 24.

"I thought the kid did everything he could possibly do to put himself in position," UW associate head coach Greg Gard said of Dekker, who's averaging 31.4 points per game this season. "And the problem is, the committee is so big that they don't all see him play. There's only a handful of people that have seen these guys play. The majority of the committee has not seen them play and they're just going on word of mouth and they look at where they're going or where they're from.

"That's part of the history that we're trying to change and the perception or tradition that we're trying to start on our end."

Dekker would have been just the fourth UW recruit to play in the McDonald's All-American Game, joining Rashard Griffith (1993), Sam Okey (1995) and Brian Butch (2003).

Starting with the 2004 game, the year after Butch was selected to play, 45 programs have had at least one recruit named to the team. That list doesn't include players who weren't committed to a school at the time the roster was announced.

Nobody should be surprised that North Carolina (21) and Duke (18) have had the most McDonald's All-American selections in that span. The next tier includes Ohio State and Texas at 10; Kentucky and UCLA at 8; Louisville, Memphis and Syracuse at 7; and Arizona and Kansas at 6.

The Badgers have gone 261-97 in Ryan's 10-plus seasons, a .729 winning percentage. They've gone 128-52 in Big Ten Conference play, a .711 winning percentage, and have won at least a share of three regular-season league titles.

UW's postseason success includes two Big Ten tournament titles, four trips to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 and one trip to the Elite Eight. The main ammunition for Ryan's critics is the fact he has yet to take the Badgers to the Final Four.

On the recruiting trail, the Badgers have to battle geography — this state is hardly a hotbed for blue-chippers — and the false perception that Ryan's system will be a dead end for recruits whose dream it is to end up in the NBA.

Nobody knows the challenges UW faces in recruiting more than Gard, who arrived with Ryan in 2001.

"You just try to make the most of what you can here, and you still have to stay true to who you are and recruit to fit the school and to fit academically and to fit the social environment," Gard said. "It's more than just how good a player you are — and obviously we're trying to get the best players possible — but there are other pieces of the puzzle that you have to have to fit here off the court.

"You're not always going to find the perfect fit, but you have to have people that have somewhat of the same vision in mind."

Dekker is the only scholarship player in UW's 2012 class, though the Badgers still have one scholarship available and haven't closed the door on using it during the spring signing period.

If the Badgers bank that scholarship, they'll have four to use in the 2013 class. UW already has landed an oral commitment from Bronson Koenig, a highly touted 6-2 guard from La Crosse Aquinas who turned down scholarship offers from Duke and North Carolina.

Among UW's top targets in the 2013 class are Semi Ojeleye, a 6-6 forward from Ottawa, Kan.; Matt Thomas, a 6-4 guard from Onalaska; and Kyle Washington, a 6-9 center at Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. Washington is from the Minneapolis area and played last season at senior point guard Jordan Taylor's former high school, Benilde-St. Margaret's in St. Louis Park, Minn.

Other players the Badgers are looking at in the 2013 class are 6-9 forward Gavin Schilling (Chicago), 6-7 forward Devin Williams (Cincinnati), 6-7 forward Alex Foster (Chicago), 6-5 forward Peter Jok (Des Moines), 6-10 forward Ted Friedman (Ankeny, Iowa) and 6-6 forward Nick Fuller of Sun Prairie.

The list of UW's targets in 2014 includes 6-8 center Jahlil Okafor (Chicago), 6-8 center Cliff Alexander (Chicago), 6-8 forward Paul White (Chicago), 6-5 guard Rashad Vaughn (New Hope, Minn.), 6-5 forward Kevon Looney (Milwaukee Hamilton), 6-0 guard Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn.) and 6-4 forward Paul Turner (Westchester, Ill.)

As for Dekker, he plans to use the McDonald's snub to fuel his competitive fire.

"I've got to move on," he told The Sheboygan Press last week. "I was disappointed, but I'm over it now.

"Congrats to the guys who got in. I'll be watching them and talking to them. As for me, this just adds more motivation to become a better player."

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