Becoming a basketball All-American at the University of Wisconsin? It is a rare feat indeed. Entering this season just five players had ever garnered those honors according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, sophomore forward Ethan Happ became No. 6 after being selected to the AP third-team All-American list. He joins Frank Kaminsky (2015), Alando Tucker (2007) Jordan Taylor (2011), Devin Harris (2004) and Don Rehfeldt (1950).
It got us to thinking about this group as a whole, especially because so many of the names on the list are familiar ones to this generation of Badgers fans. So, let us re-introduce you to some names or flat-out introduce you to others as well.
6. Ethan Happ (2016)
Becoming the sixth AP All-American player in UW basketball history is certainly nothing to sneeze at. However, he is one of just two players on this list to be named to the last of the three teams the AP puts out.
This season seemed like a disappointment for large swaths, but Happ stood out as a star for the vast majority of the year. He ended up averaging 14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Those numbers were tops on the team in every category except points, where Bronson Koenig’s 14.5 points per game average was better.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better all-around post player than Happ this past season. Some would suggest the best is yet to come after just two years in a Badgers uniform, but let’s also remember just how special this season was for Happ.
Not only was he a third-team All-American selection, Happ also picked up first-team All-Big Ten honors as well. We’d take Happ as one of our first selections in any draft thanks to his all-around game (if only he could add free throw shooting to his arsenal this offseason).
5. Jordan Taylor (2011)
What more do you want from a point guard in a Badgers team? Very few point guards were as powerful and team-orientated at the same time as Taylor was in his UW career. In the 2010-11 season, Taylor took the program on his back like a good leader needs to at times.
He finished the year averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game. Even more impressive. Taylor shot a career-best 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and 43.3 percent from the field overall.
Who can forget his memorable 39-point performance in Assembly Hall against the Hoosiers?
Those numbers led Taylor to becoming a second-team AP All-American pick and a Wooden Award (for the best player in the nation) finalist.
Taylor became the first of UW’s All-American honorees to return for another season. It didn’t work out as well for himself personally the next season, but there is no denying the 2010-11 season was one of the most fun individual seasons to watch in recent memory.
4. Devin Harris (2004)
At this point this list is just splitting hairs it seems like. Harris’ junior season in 2004 was one of the best single seasons in Wisconsin Badgers basketball history. Harris put up 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game during the 2003-04 season and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year as a result. His 624 points on the year also put him third on UW’s single season scoring list.
Somehow those numbers were only good enough for second-team AP All-American honors. But, that is water under the bridge at this point. Arguably, no Badgers player has gone on to have a better NBA career in the last 30 years than Harris has had personally.
It didn’t hurt that he was one of the most deadly jump shooters in the college game at the time. He shot an impressive 45.9 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from beyond the arc as well. After three years at UW, Harris left with 1,425 career points and ranks 11th in school history in career points scored, in just three years.
This note makes me personally feel old — as Harris was inducted in to the UW Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.
3. Alando Tucker (2007)
How do you top a season like Harris’ effort in 2003-04? You put on a tape (because those things were still in use back in 2006-07) of Alando Tucker’s senior season in 2006-07.
Tucker did some major work in the 2006-07 season, as he was one of just two players on the team to average in double figures (19.9 points). He also picked up 5.4 rebounds and dished out 2.0 assists per game. So, what makes his season better than Harris’? Well, he does rank second on the single season scoring chart with 716 points and was tops in school history at the time (more on that later on in this list).
Much like Harris and others on this list, Tucker’s numbers were good enough to earn Big Ten Player of the Year and second-team AP All-American honors.
2. Don Rehfeldt (1950)
This name and place may shock some, because Rehfeldt was “just” a third-team All-American pick back in the 1949-50 season. However, that was a criminally underrated selection in our book. It also was a criminally underrated selection by the day, as Rehfeldt earned first-team All-American honors from other organizations outside of the Associated Press.
His play in the 1949-50 season was certainly worth the first-team selection, as he averaged 19.8 points per game. That scoring average led him to be selected the Big Ten (then the Western Conference) MVP in 1950. He was also the second overall pick in the 1950 NBA Draft by the then Baltimore Bullets.
Rehfeldt left the program as its all-time leading scorer (and still ranks 27th in UW’s all-time scoring list) with 1,169 points. Just how important was Rehfeldt to UW basketball history? He was in the first class to be inducted to the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.
While you and I don’t have personal memories of his playing days and the modern game is much different, there’s little doubt that Rehfeldt was one of the most important players in Badgers basketball history.
1. Frank Kaminsky (2015)
Kaminsky feels like the classic Bo Ryan player story. He was a relatively unknown player coming in to college and by the time he was a senior became one of the most dominant players at his position in the country.
It is hard to argue that Kaminsky doesn’t belong at the top spot given his 2015 season. All he did was average 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Kaminsky also shot a career-high 54.7 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from beyond the arc (making a career-best 42 three-pointers).
Oh, and did we mention he was the leader of a team that went to the national championship game? UW’s first since the 1941 season in which it won its lone national championship.
Kaminsky’s season was the best single season scoring output in school history (732) and the 2014-15 season also saw him rank third in rebounds and fifth in rebounds. Hard to top that kind of performance on that kind of team.