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:

Devin Harris2001-02G32105564318394
Alando Tucker2002-03G32189342810385
Michael Wilkinson2001-02F32171484014299
Josh Gasser2010-11G3413275172202
Jason Bohannon2006-07G334835113151
Ryan Evans2009-10F33100211211116
Joe Krabbenhoft2005-06F3113044116111
Boo Wade2002-03G325959274107
Marcus Landry2005-06F1650207696
Jon Leuer2007-08F3240124394
Kevin Gullikson2005-06F214393265
Jordan Taylor2008-09G33313810053
Frank Kaminsky2011-12F2233621250

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.