A Full Deck of Confdience

Sam Dekker was a Wisconsin commit well before last summer's AAU circuit, but the 6-foot-8 shooting forward knew his talent level needed to get Big Ten ready. He's not there yet, but the things Dekker did in the offseason have made him one of the best high school players in the state and one of the fastest rising prospects in the country.

MADISON - Reality is finally starting to set in on Sam Dekker, and he has no complaints about it.

Dekker has been lights out this spring AAU season for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors, earning Top Performer honors by Scout.com in the Spiece Run N' Slam Classic in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the Adidas May Classic on the campus of Indiana.

As a result, the 6-foot-8 Dekker has seen his stock soar, as he is now a freshly minted four-star recruit, the 19th best shooting forward in the country by Scout.com and he is still climbing. Most importantly, he's helping fans quickly recover from the sting of J.P. Tokoto choosing to play at North Carolina over Wisconsin.

And to be honest, Dekker has no idea where he's ranked, who's watching him or who is studying him, as his focus on improving his game has given a severe case of tunnel vision.

"I don't find out about a lot of the honors until somebody tells me about them," Dekker told Badger Nation. "It's really fun to be out there doing something you love and be successful with it. I am excited every time I get out on to the court because I am finding out new things about my game. I am blessed to be in that situation."

The growth in Dekker from one year to the next is noticeable and almost staggering. When he finished his AAU season last July in the Wisconsin Exposure Classic, Dekker showed onlookers he has potential: a good defender with solid range, good inside-outside game and touch from the perimeter. He also showed that he needed more upper body strength, needed to play with more confidence in the post and had to improve on his ball handling.

"I finished last summer out well, but I knew I needed to have better offseason training," Dekker said. "I used everything I learned and put that into my training, knowing I had to get bigger and stronger in many ways, I had to get quicker and I had to be a better ball handler. I worked on all those little details and I am still not even close where I can be. Still, I worked on all of that really hard and it showed what I could when I got on to the court and got into a groove."

The results were Dekker averaging 28.8 points per game his junior season for Sheboygan Area Lutheran, scoring in double figures in 24 of 25 games, scoring 20+ points 21 times, scoring 30+ points 10 times and breaking the 50-point mark twice.

Now that success has carried over to the AAU circuit against greater competition. In the Spiece Classic, Dekker, according to Scout's Brian Snow, looked like the best player on the floor with his ability to knock down shots by getting his feet set and having a quick release.

One week later, Dekker outshined Tokoto, as Snow said Dekker was clearly the best 17 and under player over the weekend with his ability to shoot the basketball and having the size and skill set make him one of the toughest matchups in the country.

"There are so many things that I worked on that people don't see in the box score that have really paid off," said Dekker, who also had seven double-doubles his junior year. "Me and my dad worked on things every day over the summer and we continue to do that. It's pushing me to play at a higher level, and I am excited because the workouts have given me a great deal of confidence to help me play well and give my teams win."

Despite all the attention and accolades he is receiving, Dekker says he hasn't fielded one call from a Division 1 head coach to offer him a scholarship or persuade him to take a closer look at their campus. Even if they did, Dekker said it would be a waste of time, as his commitment to the University of Wisconsin is virtually unbreakable.

"It's great because I don't have to worry about anyone coming to talk to me," said Dekker, who committed following Wisconsin's elite camp on June 15. "I know where I am going to go and I am sticking with that. I was just starting my recruitment when Wisconsin offered me. My first offer came in April and I committed in June. I feel like I would have had many offers coming my way, but I am glad that I got it over with. I feel knowing where you want to go and you have a spot waiting for you is a very comforting thing."

The support system at Wisconsin has been a big benefactor to Dekker. Dekker will call head coach Bo Ryan anywhere from two to three times a month to stay in touch and will reach out to all three assistants, as well.

"They always want to know how I am doing and how the team is doing," Dekker said. "They tell me things I can work on because they know I am just starting to play well and they know I can get a lot better. They just keep encouraging me to keep working hard. They have been really supportive in everything I have done this past year."

It has been a challenging year on the recruiting front for Wisconsin. While the Badgers got an early commitment from Dekker, the second spot in the 2012 recruiting class was being held open for Tokoto, Dekker's teammate and good friend with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. Tokoto committed to North Carolina on March 4, a move that has not sat well with the UW coaching staff as it continues to look for a second scholarship athlete.

Dekker said he wasn't surprised by Tokoto's decision, but the choice hasn't created any animosity between the two … at least not yet.

"There's a little rivalry between us, talking about who is going to get their school a championship first, but there's no competition on the court," Dekker said. "We both know each other are exceptional players and we can both utilize each other so well. That doesn't mean we don't want to see each other on the court in a few years."

The only thing that has stopped Dekker over the last five AAU Tournament was a slip of his foot in the third to last game in the Adidas May Classic, resulting in an ankle sprain that made him miss the last two games of the tournament. When the Playground Warriors play next weekend in the Bob Gibbons Classic in North Carolina, expect Dekker to be back in the mix.

"I'll be ready, it's just a matter of treating it properly and I have some treatments coming up," Dekker said. "It happened at an unfortunate time because I was in a groove and was playing with a lot of confidence."

Confidence that will help all Badgers fans forget about Tokoto.

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