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Frank Kaminsky’s personal growth led to his legend at Wisconsin

Frank Kaminsky may have led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four appearances, but none of it happens without a great personal story of growth and commitment.

Frank Kaminsky will go down as one of, if not the greatest players to put on a Badgers basketball uniform in history. On Thursday night that truth will be spoken in the form of Kaminsky having his number retired by the Wisconsin Badgers prior to the tip of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers.

But, Kaminsky wasn’t always guaranteed to be a success story at the collegiate level. He came to UW as a somewhat skinny 7-footer with a jump shot, ranked as the No. 242 ranked player in the country and the No. 23 ranked center in the nation. Not exactly the stuff that would make up legends.

Four years later and Kaminsky would leave the Badgers to an appearance in the national championship game and become consensus national Player of the Year. His rise from freshman nobody to senior star is well-documented, but it’s also a story with telling over and over again, because it’s a great story of personal growth and a reminder that hard work matters as much as skill does.

According to an article by Jesse Temple at Land of 10, Kaminsky thought himself to be out of shape and saw it hindering his chances to contribute at Wisconsin. The culprit? Qdoba.

He worked hard in the offseason and returned for his sophomore year down in weight and body fat. But, Kaminsky still wasn’t ready for the big time, averaging just 10.7 minutes, 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds

Few saw the next two seasons coming, including now head coach Greg Gard, who candidly said he wasn’t sure if Kaminsky would ever be a player at Wisconsin.

“The path he came on from when he was a freshman to a sophomore to where he finished is unbelievable in terms of how he improved, how he grew,” Gard said, via Land of 10. “Obviously, he is a poster child in terms of a player putting in so much time and such a commitment to develop and make yourself into what he was and is.

“He wasn’t very good as a freshman. I didn’t know if he could play for us. And then he committed himself to a lot of work, a lot of time on his own. He changed his body, changed some of his habits, really committed himself to it and then also figured some things out. He grew into his body a little bit, too.”

The ability to look inward for change was huge for Kaminsky’s growth, and after two years of that hard work he became a force for the Badgers out of nowhere.

His junior season was impressive, as Kaminsky averaged 13.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. That was just a taste of what Kaminsky could do though. He continued to work on his post game and became nearly unstoppable as a scary mix of sharp-shooter, low post force and defensive dynamo.

Kaminsky’s final season saw him put up a crazy stat line, Badgers uniform or not. He averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.5 blocks per game, while also shooting 54.7 percent from the field and a UW-career best 41.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Those numbers helped him leave Wisconsin with a degree and one of the greatest single seasons and careers in program history. What is really unique is that you won’t be able to tell the story of Frank Kaminsky just by looking at the record books alone. His name appears inside the top 10 of just two major categories (field goals and field goal percentage) outside of being No. 1 in blocked shots. All of that despite being 4th in games played in a career (144).

If anything, it tells you just how legendary and impressive the final two seasons were. Kaminsky does own the most points (732) and second-most rebounds (320) in a single season in UW history.

But, let’s not forget the real story here — if it weren’t for hard work and personal growth, Kaminsky, and the Badgers, likely never get where they got to by his final season. That’s the real story and the real reason Kaminsky means so much to the program.

There’s no doubt his No. 44 hanging in the rafters is a just honor for his play on the court and his hard work off of it.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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