Mike Wilkinson, a forward for the Wisconsin Badgers from 2001 to 2005 was as steady of a scorer as they come. At 6 foot 8, he was the first of many shooting big men that thrived in Bo Ryan’s swing offense. In fact, his freshman year coincided with Bo Ryan’s first year as the head coach in Madison.
As a redshirt freshman in 2001, Wilkinson played a huge role on a team that went on to earn a share of the Big 10 championship. While he didn’t start a single game, he played 28 minutes per game off the bench, and he appeared in all 32 games. In fact, he played twice as much as starter Dave Mader did. Wilkinson averaged 9 points per game and also led the team in rebounds and steals.
As a sophomore, Wilkinson jumped into a starting role and increased his scoring to 10 points per game. His defense was also terrific, as he averaged 1.2 steals per game and held the team highs in blocks and rebounds. His outstanding performance was a big reason for Wisconsin’s second straight Big 10 Title, this time outright.
In his junior year, Wilkinson made a big leap in his offensive game. His scoring average increased to 13.1 ppg, as he became the second leading scorer on the Badgers. He was also their main threat to score in the post. Once again, Wilkinson played terrific defense, leading the team in blocks and rebounds, while only trailing Devin Harris in steals.
As a fifth year senior, Wilkinson became a full-fledged star. He again increased his scoring average to 14 PPG. He led the team in minutes, rebounds, blocks, and steals. His steady performance helped the Badgers reach the Elite 8; the farthest Bo Ryan would get until 2013-2014. He was named to the All Big 10 First Team, and became only the second Badger to record 1,500 points and 800 rebounds over a career. Until recently, he was also Wisconsin’s leader in career tournament points.
Wilkinson was a very steady presence both offensively and defensively for the first four years of Bo Ryan’s career. He helped make the transition much easier for the future Hall of Fame coach. Everyone knows how important the first few years of a coach’s career are and, because of Wilkinson, Ryan’s were very successful. Because of players like Wilkinson, Wisconsin was put on the map as Big 10 contenders for years to come. Like the team since Bo Ryan took over, Wilkinson was as steady as they come.
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