Wisconsin Basketball: Ethan Happ Ready To Shine


As the Wisconsin basketball team begins its 2015-16 season on Friday night against Western Illinois, Badger fans will finally get to see Ethan Happ in regular-season action in the Kohl Center for the first time.

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Happ played in Wisconsin’s lone exhibition contest against UW-River Falls on Nov. 4 and recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes. He finished 7 of 9 from the floor with two blocks and two assists.

If unfamiliar with the name right now, get to know it because Happ is going to be a special player in Madison for a long time.

Why so much praise when we have never seen him play? Let’s take a look at a few quotes from people who did see Happ battle against players like Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes as a redshirt on the scout team last season.

In January, former Badgers guard Josh Gasser said, “I think he is going to be a stud next year as a freshman.”

Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close said, “There are days in practice where they can’t guard him.”

And finally, during his weekly radio show, head coach Bo Ryan said, “He’s going to be one of the better players ever to wear a Badger uniform.”

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  • As the tallest player on the scout team in the 2014-15 season, Happ earned valuable experience going against NBA first-rounders Kaminsky and Dekker and the junior Hayes in practice. The 6-foot-9 forward also bulked up to 235 pounds and worked with Close almost daily to improve his shot during his true freshman season.

    Happ has improved in several areas since arriving on campus Rockridge High School in Taylor Ridge, Illinois where he was two-time Associated Press first team All-State selection. He came to Madison without understanding on how to play in the post and lacked the defense that Ryan would appreciate, and after a year in the Badgers’ system, he is more comfortable in both areas.

    Because of the youth and inexperience of this year’s team, which lost five of its top seven scorers from last season, Happ will seem like a veteran right away. Wisconsin’s top seven players during practices open to the media were Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Hayes, Vitto Brown, Happ, Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas. The list includes just two returning starters and three freshmen. The lone senior on the roster is fifth-year walk on Jordan Smith.

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    Without Kaminsky, Dekker and solid bench production from Duje Dukan on this year’s team, Happ fills a position of need for the Badgers. Hayes should be in the discussion for Big Ten Player of the Year, but the rest of Wisconsin’s forwards lack experience. Brown provided little for Wisconsin and his minutes faded down the stretch last season. Behind him, it is all freshmen. Iverson is a guard/forward combo, and 17-year-old Charlie Thomas’ 253-pound frame provides a big body in the post. Alex Illikainen is contemplating a redshirt season, while Andy Van Vliet awaits the NCAA’s decision on his eligibility. Happ provides a huge boost as the Badgers try to replace the most talented frontcourt in program history.

    When he gets the start on Friday, Happ will join Devin Harris as the only freshmen to start a season opener during the Bo Ryan era not due to injury (George Marshall started as a freshman in 2012 because Gasser tore an ACL). After watching from the sidelines as his teammates made their second consecutive Final Four appearance last season, Happ said one of his personal goals includes being a four-year starter in Madison.

    Next: Wisconsin Basketball Season Predictions

    If he lives up to the hype, Happ will be a real treat for the Badger fans to watch over the next four years.