Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers offer rising forward Zed Key in 2020

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 29: Head Coach Greg Gard of the Wisconsin Badgers on the sidelines during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Kohl Center on December 29, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 29: Head Coach Greg Gard of the Wisconsin Badgers on the sidelines during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Kohl Center on December 29, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

Looking to add a forward in the class of 2020, Wisconsin Basketball has extended a new offer at the position to New York native Zed Key.

Wisconsin’s current 2020 class is certainly one that fans should be excited about, as the Badgers boast commitments from three exciting prospects in Lorne Bowman and the Davis twins, who each look to have bright futures in Madison. However, all three of those players happen to be guards, and there is a pressing need for an influx of talent in the frontcourt that remains unaddressed.

The staff is all in on in-state 5-star Jalen Johnson and 4-star Minnesota product Ben Carlson at forward right now, but with the former almost certainly heading to Duke or Kentucky and the latter far from a lock to end up at Wisconsin, the Badgers can’t afford to hold back on looking into new options. Besides Johnson and Carlson, the only other forwards Greg Gard and company have offered to this point are 4-star Dawson Garcia out of Minnesota and 5-star Ziaire Williams from the West Coast, and Wisconsin is not going to be a player in either of those recruitments. This means the Badgers are going to have to start dishing out a few more offers to cover their bases in the event that they miss on both Johnson and Carlson.

With this in mind, last week, the staff offered one of the hottest prospects in the country right now in Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, NY) power forward Zed Key.

Currently listed as a 3-star prospect and the No. 291 overall player in the 2020 class according to the 247Sports composite, given how much Key has blown up as of late, those rankings probably are not indicative of his talent and seem likely to be changed before the end of the recruiting cycle.

Key was one of the top performers at the NBPA Top 100 camp in Virginia a couple of weeks ago, which is saying something given how much talent was present at the event (Johnson, Garcia, and Carlson were all in attendance as well), and his recruitment has exploded accordingly. Since his strong performance at the camp, in addition to Wisconsin, programs such as Virginia Tech, Marquette, Ohio State, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, USF, and TCU have all extended offers. Those schools enter a race that had already included the likes of Rutgers, Florida, Illinois, Penn State, Dayton, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, and more prior to the NBPA camp.

So, now that they have offered, how good of a shot do the Badgers have at landing this kid, or even becoming a major player in his recruitment?

That’s obviously a pretty difficult question to answer now, given that Wisconsin has only just offered and, as best as I can tell, this is just the beginning of the staff’s attempt to build a relationship with Key. That being said, the pessimist in me says that fans probably should not get their hopes up.

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As I touched on already, Key’s recruitment is absolutely blowing up right now, and more big-time offers will probably continue to come his way over the coming days and weeks after his breakout performance in Virginia. This is bad news for Wisconsin because even as things stand at this moment, his current offer list would be one that the Badgers would have a pretty difficult time coming out on top of.

Additionally, Wisconsin doesn’t exactly have a promising history of landing recruits once they start to blow up unless the staff has already been laying the groundwork and forming a strong relationship with the player and his family far sooner, and even then has struggled to remain competitive as of late. Think of the situations with D.J. Carton and Zeke Nnaji in the 2019 class: the Badgers identified the talent of those two players and offered them scholarships far sooner than most, if not all, other high-major programs, only to see their efforts rewarded by still finding themselves out of the running for both soon after they started blowing up and cutting down their lists.

That being said, this strategy of identifying talent early on and getting a head start on other programs has historically worked very well for the Badgers. Think about Bowman, for example. The staff got involved with him very early in his recruitment and locked down a commitment before he had the chance to blow up on the EYBL this summer. If he had gone into the AAU season uncommitted, Bowman almost certainly would have seen his offer sheet expand significantly.

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All of this is to say that, given what we know about how Wisconsin usually finds success in recruiting, the situation with Key appears to be a long shot given his increasingly competitive offer list and the fact that this is not a recruitment in which the Badgers got themselves in the door early on. Things could get intriguing if he shows enough interest in Wisconsin to visit campus, but right now, I think this is just an example of the staff rolling the dice and seeing what happens. Look for some additional offers to go out from the Badgers throughout the next couple of months as they look to add the final piece to this 2020 class.