Two summers ago, Sam Dekker was an under-the-radar prospect when he showed up at the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program’s advanced camp and wowed coach Bo Ryan and his staff.
Dekker quickly earned a scholarship offer and committed to the Badgers, and his stock has been soaring ever since as he gets set to enter his freshman season.
Don’t be surprised if a similar scenario plays out with Ethan Happ, who finished off a whirlwind recruiting process Tuesday by orally committing to Ryan and Co. during an unofficial visit to the UW campus.
Happ, a 6-foot-7 forward from Milan, Ill., is the Badgers’ first commitment in their 2014 recruiting class. He averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds as a sophomore last season at Rockridge High School in Taylor Ridge, Ill., which is a short drive from the Quad Cities.
Asked what he liked about the UW program, Happ gave an answer that would have made Ryan grin from ear to ear.
"I’m not a finished product," Happ said, "and I know how well that coaching staff develops players."
Like Dekker, Happ grew up as a guard before a massive growth spurt turned him into a swingman. Happ was a 5-11 point guard as an eighth-grader two years ago, but he’s grown eight inches since then.
And, like Dekker, Happ’s stock rose in a hurry.
Logan Wynn, who coaches Happ on the Quad City Elite AAU team, said UW hadn’t shown much interest until Happ’s performance at a tournament in April in Merrillville, Ind. Wynn said Happ played particularly well during a game against the Illinois Wolves, who featured Keita Bates-Diop, another player in the 2014 class the UW coaching staff had targeted.
"He was definitely the better of the two players in that game, no doubt about it," Wynn said of Happ, who finished with around 30 points.
Happ attended UW’s advanced camp two weeks ago and earned a scholarship offer. His only other offers were from UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay, but Wynn believes Happ would have received another 15 offers by the end of the July evaluation period.
"We’ve played a lot of good teams this spring on the AAU circuit and against some players that are getting national attention, and Ethan’s probably played better than most of those kids," said Wynn, who also serves as an assistant at Rockridge. "He’s a small-town kid and nobody knew about him. If he was up in the Chicago suburbs, he’d probably be ranked as one of the top players (in Illinois)."
Rockridge head coach Toby Whiteman saw Happ play this summer and says he made huge strides in the three months since he helped lead the Rockets to a 21-7 record.
"He’s always calling me: ‘Hey, Coach, can I get in the gym? Can you set up the shooting machine?’ The kid loves the game," Whiteman said.