The No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers begin their season on Nov. 8th at a neutral court against a tough St. John’s squad. The Badgers lost their entire front court to graduation and at least three players will begin their careers as starters against the Red Storm.
Among the new faces in the starting line-up will unquestionably be sophomore Sam Dekker, who made a significant impact as a freshman.
As a sophomore Dekker is expected to rise to stardom as he hopes to lead the Badgers to a Big Ten best 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin boasts a backcourt with impressive depth and experience and a frontcourt that will be looking for new playmakers.
Dekker is the answer to the Badgers’ search for consistent small-forward play as well as a legitimate threat for Big Ten Player of the Year in the near future because he makes plays like this (spoiler: Made three-pointer, steal and dunk in .20 seconds against Cornell).
A Look At The Numbers
The Badgers’ last definitive superstar was Alando Tucker (2002-2007).
Sam Dekker: 6’7” Small Forward from Sheboygan, WI.
Alando Tucker: 6’6” Small Forward from Lockport, IL.
Dekker averaged 9.6 points-per-game last year as a true freshman.
Tucker averaged 12.0 points-per-game as a true freshman.
Dekker averaged 22.3 minutes-per-game last year as a true freshman.
Tucker averaged 31.8 minutes-per-game as a true freshman.
Dekker’s 9.6 points-per-game is impressive on its own but he averaged 9.5 less minutes on the court than Tucker did as a freshman. Thus, Dekker appears to be every bit as effective as Tucker was as freshman but the Badgers’ depth at forward was more established in 2012 than it was in 2002.
Last Season Review
What is specifically impressive about Dekker’s freshman campaign is that he got better as conference play began. Dekker’s consistent scoring impact wasn’t realized until the competition heated up and the Badgers marched through the nation’s toughest conference.
The first stretch of three consecutive games scoring double-digits in his career was against No. 12 Illinois, at No. 2 Indiana and at Iowa. Although Dekker’s coming out party was in February when he scored in double-digits in six consecutive games against No. 3 Michigan, at Minnesota, No. 13 Ohio State, at Northwestern, Nebraska and Purdue.
That stretch of quality play is an impressive feat for a playmaking senior in the Big Ten schedule, much less a true freshman. It seemed as though the bigger the game – the better Dekker played.
The freshman shot .391 from three point range and was never afraid to take the big shot – even in high school. He also averaged a respectable 3.4 rebounds-per-game. Dekker was only the fourth true freshman to start in the Bo Ryan era although was the team’s sixth-man for most of the season.
What To Expect
After a year of weight training Dekker has added some weight to his athletic frame and he should be able to bang down inside more effectively this season. Expect his rebounding numbers to significantly increase as well as his points in the paint.
Dekker’s three-point percentage should also rise because the Badgers’ guard play should be even better than last year and should create many open looks for Dekker; who is never afraid to take a shot.
Dekker’s minutes will rise to 30-32 minutes-per-game this season.
I predict Dekker will average 14-15 points-per-game and 5.5 rebounds-per-game in 2013/14.
Tucker averaged 31.7 minutes and 15.2 points-per-game as a sophomore.
As the non-conference schedule rolls on expect Dekker to begin to show flashes of his stardom rising and his numbers swell in comparison to last season. As conference play comes around I believe we will see Dekker develop into a team leader, emotional leader and the face of the team.
If the Badgers compete for the Big Ten Championship, after losing three starters in the offseason, expect Dekker to at least be in the conversation for Big Ten Player of the Year. He might not be a serious contender until his junior season but he will get plenty of chances to show off his talents to the conference and the nation this year and beyond.
The Grateful Red will make plenty of noise this year because of this kid. The season is right around the corner, get ready Bucky faithful – hoops are back.