Best Players of the Bo Ryan Era — Number 9, Sam Dekker


Sam Dekker came into Wisconsin with more hype than any other player in recent memory. He was a 5 star recruit that had made waves with his spectacular play in the Wisconsin state tournament. Murmurs of “star” and “NBA” were being thrown around before he even set foot on campus. And in his freshman year, he allowed us a small taste of his immense talent and athletsism.

He averaged 9.6 points per game in only 22 minutes as the 6th man. He showed just why NBA scouts were already drooling over him, as he was one of the best 6th men in the country, getting into double-digit scoring 20 times, including a team-high 14 in the NCAA Tournament loss to Ole Miss.

When he came back to Madison as a sophomore, the buzz was overwhelming. He was put on the pre-season Wooden Watch list, and he was considered a Big 10 Player of the Year contender. That season, he averaged 12 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game as the team’s starting power forward. He was named to the Second Team All-Big 10, and helped lead Wisconsin to its first Final Four. Those numbers were very respectable, and for any other player, would have been considered great. But many Badger fans were disappointed. They wanted more out of their 5-star recruit.

Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Sam Dekker (15) blocks the shot by Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) during the second half in the 2015 NCAA Men

If he declared for the NBA draft, which he very well could have, he would probably not even be on this list. But he decided to stay another year to try to lead Wisconsin to a championship. Again, expectations were high for him. But through the non-conference schedule, he was slowed down by injuries. Now the murmurs changed to “overrated” and “bust.” Throughout Big 10 play, he was solid, averaging about 12 points per game, and making many great hustle plays. He was also a very solid defender, leaving everything he had on the court. And yet, Badger fans still weren’t pleased.

Then the NCAA Tournament happened. 20 points in the round of 64. 17 against Oregon in the Round of 32. A massive 23 points in a seven point Sweet 16 victory over UNC. 27 points, including a game-clinching dagger to sink Arizona and send Wisconsin to its second-straight Final Four. He was named the West Region’s most valuable player, and he became a Wisconsin state hero. Then, he tacked on 16 points against Kentucky, including a game-winning step back three pointer with a minute to play.

And just like that Dekker had not only lived up to our expectations, but he exceeded them. But to be perfectly honest, Dekker would be right here on this list without his tournament heroics. Averaging 12 points per game for two straight years is still very good. His movement without the ball, his unselfishness, and his defense were a big reason for his team’s success. He was an extremely hard worker that got more loose balls than anybody except Josh Gasser. Dekker was a super athletic glue guy that put up points in a hurry. And he was clutch.

Did I mention that he’s clutch? Maybe he didn’t score as much as we would have liked. Maybe he did disappear at times. But you can’t deny how tough and how valuable he was for Bo Ryan for the last three years. Not many other stars would be as willing to give up their personal stats for the team, but Dekker was as unselfish as they get. And did I mention that he’s clutch?

Come back tomorrow to see who number 8 is.

Click here for #10

Click here for Honorable Mentions

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