Time Was Right For Sam Dekker To Go Pro


For Sam Dekker, there was never going to be a better time to go pro.

The junior forward announced Friday that he will forgo his final year of eligibility to pursue a career in the NBA, bringing an end to his career as a Wisconsin Badger.

“These past three years have been the best, most memorable years of my life. Growing up in the state and being able to wear Wisconsin across my chest has been a dream come true,” Dekker said in a statement. “After lots of thoughts and prayers, I’ve decided that it is in my best interest to enter the NBA Draft at this time. It is difficult to leave Madison and the only state I’ve called home, but I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.”

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

This announcement didn’t (or at least it shouldn’t have) come as much of a surprise to Wisconsin fans, as Dekker’s draft stock has never been higher.

A five-star recruit out of high school, few players have ever received as much fanfare or as high of expectations that the Sheboygan native faced upon his arrival in Madison.

Though he caught a fair amount a flack from some fans for what they perceived as a failure to reach his potential or give consistent production, there’s no denying the fact that Dekker has been a major contributor for the Badgers over the past three years.

During his collegiate career, Dekker averaged 12.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while also posting a 49.3% field-goal percentage. He played in 113 games for Wisconsin, including 81 starts, finishing his career with 1,363 points (15th-most in school history) and 569 rebounds. Only eight other players have recorded at least 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in their first three seasons as a Badger.

This past season, Dekker was stellar, averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 52.5% from the field. He led all Big Ten players with a 63.9% 2-point field-goal percentage, and only teammate Frank Kaminsky ranked ahead of him within the conference in offensive win shares (he also ranked 10th nationally in that category).

For his efforts, he was named an All-Big Ten second-team selection by both the coaches and the media.

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Though he was solid all year, Dekker really stepped his game up to a whole new level in the NCAA Tournament.

Dekker became a hero of March for the Badgers, averaging 19.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in the team’s six Tournament games. In the first five of those games, he shot a blistering 61.3% from the field, including shooting 50% from 3-point range.

His success from deep is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he had gone just 2-of-17 from beyond the arc in the six games prior to the NCAA Tournament.

Though he was impressive all throughout Wisconsin’s run during March Madness, his most sensational performances came in the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight against North Carolina and Arizona, respectively.

Against the Tar Heels, Dekker scored 23 points and almost single-handedly kept the Badgers in the game in the first half, scoring seemingly at will while the rest of the offense struggled.

He followed that up with a performance against Arizona that will live on forever in both Wisconsin and March Madness lore.

Dekker completely went off in the second half, during which he scored 20 of his 27 points. Over the last 20 minutes of the game, he was 6-of-6 from the floor, 5-of-5 from 3-point range, 3-of-3 from the charity stripe and he capped it all off with a high-arcing triple with less than 30 seconds remaining that provided the final dagger into the hearts of the Wildcats.

The parallels between his performances in the NCAA Tournament this year and the performances of Kaminsky during last year’s tourney are almost eerie.

Both stepped their games up to incredible levels, played their best in Elite Eight wins over Arizona, were named the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player and even had slightly underwhelming performances in a heartbreaking loss to end Wisconsin’s season.

But unlike Dekker, Kaminsky decided to return for one last hurrah during his senior season. Of course, Kaminsky had the luxury of knowing that he would be returning to a national title contender, while Dekker would’ve returned to a team clouded with questions.

Also, their journeys through college were stood in stark contrast of each other. Kaminsky developed from an unheralded reserve to one of college basketball’s premier players, and he was better served to continue his development for one more year in college.

Dekker’s potential has always been clear to all, and after this last NCAA Tournament, his stock might be as high as it will ever be.

“Obviously I knew my game was ready for the pros, but I loved Madison. I loved the fans, I loved playing here, loved my teammates, the coaching staff,” Dekker told Fox Sports Wisconsin’s Jesse Temple. “So it was a tough decision. But at the end of the day, this opportunity can only come once in a lifetime to some people. I thought this was a good one for me.”

An opportunity to realize his dream stared him right in the face, and he chose to seize it. No reasonable person could ever fault him for making that move.

Next: Dekker Declares