From the very start Jonathan Tsipis vowed to build the foundation of his University of Wisconsin women’s basketball program with as many in-state players as possible.
He just needed to find some players who shared his vision for what the UW program can become.
Tara Stauffacher is one such player.
Stauffacher, a 5-11 junior from Beaver Dam, became the first state player to accept a scholarship offer from Tsipis when she made an oral commitment Saturday to become the first player in UW’s pivotal 2019 recruiting class.
Stauffacher chose UW over offers from the state’s three other Division I programs — Marquette, Green Bay and Milwaukee — among others.
She cited proximity to home and the ability of friends and family to be able to watch her play as primary reasons for choosing UW.
She also said a big part of the lure is the notion of being the first of a wave of state players who come on board and help take the program to new heights.
“Hopefully, I am,” Stauffacher said. “Within Wisconsin there are so many good players and this state pride could ultimately take Wisconsin to another level, which would be really cool. Then I get to play with other really good players from the state.
“I think Tsipis knows what he’s doing and he’s moving the program in the right direction. When I get there, hopefully, they’ll be better and I can be a part of that change of moving women’s basketball up.”
Certainly, Stauffacher will bring a winning pedigree to UW. As a sophomore she averaged 11.4 points in helping Beaver Dam to an undefeated season and the WIAA Division 2 state championship.
Beaver Dam coach Tim Chase said that Stauffacher will bring a sweet shooting touch, a winning mindset and a gung-ho style of play to the UW program.
“The greatest thing about Tara is that she brings it every day,” Chase said. “She has a great amount of energy and she’s a great teammate. She’s just a relentless type of player that just gets after it every single night. I think that’s one of the things that people who watch her really enjoy about her. Her intensity and energy are just amazing.
“She’s an outstanding 3-point shooter, gets to the basket well, rebounds well. She’s a scorer and has a scorer’s mentality. She has college range already with her 3-point shot and that’s something she’ll keep working at.”
Chase would’ve been happy if Stauffacher had chosen any of the state schools. “All of the schools are really topnotch programs with great coaches,” he said.
But he was excited that she chose to be the first of what he hopes will be many state players to become part of Tsipis’ building project in Madison. Chase said he and other state high school coaches appreciate the efforts Tsipis and his staff have made in recruiting state players, even if they’ve come up empty in their first two recruiting classes.
Immediately upon being hired, Tsipis made a run at the state’s two premier players for the 2017 class — Madison Edgewood’s Estella Moschkau and Kenosha St. Joseph’s Sidney Cooks, only to lose out to Stanford and Michigan State, respectively.
The 2018 class was not considered particularly strong, and his primary target, Madison East’s Erin Howard, committed early to Auburn. So Tsipis will announce a recruiting class on Wednesday that is expected to include five players from out of state, several of whom he started recruiting while still coaching at George Washington.
But the UW staff has focused on an exceptional 2019 class, making early offers and working to develop relationships with top prospects like guards Sydney Hilliard of Monroe, McKenna Warnock of Monona Grove and Shemera Williams of Milwaukee Academy of Science and 6-4 post player Sydnee Roby of Milwaukee King.
“He’s been trying,” Chase said of Tsipis’ recruiting efforts in the state. “The coaches around the state have confidence in him and feel like he’s doing a great job and pushing things in the right direction.
“There are some other really good players in the class of 2019 and on down the road when you get to the ‘20s and ‘21s as well.”
Stauffacher said she doesn’t really know any of the other top players in her class but she has played against them either in high school or with her Oconomowoc-based Wisconsin Lakers AAU team.
As much as she’d like some of them to join her at UW, she’s confident that she found the right place for her.
“The competition they play is second to none as a Big Ten school,” Stauffacher said. “I know that Coach Tsipis is going to try to make me as good as I can become as a player. We live so close so I’ve been able to watch the Badgers and I feel that pride as a Badger now.”