Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Appreciating Frank Kaminsky's Freshman Season

Do you see Frank Kaminsky? There he is, in the background.

It’s fitting for a player who plays all of eight minutes and scores just 2.3 points per game. He is, for all but the most obsessive basketball scholar, an afterthought. For now, maybe this inconspicuous role fits Kaminsky. As the seven-footer told the Chicago Tribune during his senior year of high school:

“Going to the mall is my least favorite thing,” says Frank Kaminsky, who flirts with the 7-foot mark when wearing size 18 shoes. “I’ll see people on the other side of the mall pointing at me.”

But even a role as minimal as Kaminsky’s — seven minutes here, a shot there, the occasional rebound — has put him in rare territory among freshman under Bo Ryan. In his seven-minute performance against Penn State, Kaminsky drained his only shot, a three-pointer, giving him his 48th, 49th, and 50th points on the season. This by itself is no large accomplishment. Plenty of players score 50 points in a season; plenty average 2.3 points per game. But earning the run necessary to do so under Bo Ryan? That’s something a little more special.

Kaminsky is now just the 13th player since Bo Ryan took the reins to reach the 50 point mark in his freshman season, and just the sixth since the 2006-07 season. And, as the table below illustrates, Kaminsky joins a pretty special group of players:

Player Season Pos G TRB AST STL BLK PTS
Devin Harris 2001-02 G 32 105 56 43 18 394
Alando Tucker 2002-03 G 32 189 34 28 10 385
Michael Wilkinson 2001-02 F 32 171 48 40 14 299
Josh Gasser 2010-11 G 34 132 75 17 2 202
Jason Bohannon 2006-07 G 33 48 35 11 3 151
Ryan Evans 2009-10 F 33 100 21 12 11 116
Joe Krabbenhoft 2005-06 F 31 130 44 11 6 111
Boo Wade 2002-03 G 32 59 59 27 4 107
Marcus Landry 2005-06 F 16 50 20 7 6 96
Jon Leuer 2007-08 F 32 40 12 4 3 94
Kevin Gullikson 2005-06 F 21 43 9 3 2 65
Jordan Taylor 2008-09 G 33 31 38 10 0 53
Frank Kaminsky 2011-12 F 22 33 6 2 12 50
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/2/2012.

This list includes almost every great player to wear the Wisconsin uniform under Bo Ryan. Harris,  Tucker and Leuer were national-level stars and have all reached the NBA, as did Landry for a time. Wilkinson, Krabbenhoft and Bohannon are the types of  players who define the swing offense under Ryan.  Taylor, Evans and Gasser form the backbone of this year’s 18-5 squad. Only Wade and Gullikson failed to make an impact beyond their freshman seasons.

Kaminsky was supposed to be an impact player for this program somewhere down the line. Seven-foot human beings don’t grow on trees, and Kaminsky was ranked the 22nd best center in last year’s class by Scout. This impact, no matter how small, wasn’t supposed to come this early. But when he’s had his chances, Kaminsky has made them count. His 55.9% true shooting trails just Josh Gasser among rotation players, and on many occasions he’s hit an important shot — like the three-pointer to give Wisconsin a 30-26 lead in Tuesday’s game at Penn State — or the big block — like on the possession immediately following — or the big rebound  — like on the very next shot — or the big assist — on the Badgers’ very next possession.

As Kaminsky toils in the background, making small differences in a big way, know this: we may be watching the next star Wisconsin big man.

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