Fifty-Eight Reasons to Smile

He'll have no impact on No.16 Wisconsin's Big Ten tilt against No.8 Ohio State on Sunday but UW commit Sam Dekker, after scoring 58 points last week and leading his team to its first ever outright conference title, figures to be involved in many Wisconsin wins over the next four years.

MADISON - If he had to pick between scoring the most points in a single game in Sheboygan area history or clinching a share of the Central Lakeshore Conference regular season title for the first time in seven years, there really is no debate on what meant more to Sheboygan Area Lutheran senior and Wisconsin commit Sam Dekker.

He'll take the title every time, and not because the old scoring record he broke was his own.

"That's a no brainer because I just want to win," Dekker told Badger Nation. "That's partly the reason why I had the big night because I wanted to win so bad. I wanted to do anything for my team to close out the season with two big wins. I had to do what I had to do."

Dekker's 58 points are tied for the 21st-most in state history and while he finished 30 points short of Aaron Ritchay's state-record 88 points for Mellen High in 1917, the efficiency at which the future UW player shot was the most impressive.

The 6-8 Dekker shot 14-of-14 on 2-point attempts, 5-of-10 on 3s and 15-of-17 from the free-throw line while also grabbing eight rebounds, registering five blocks and dishing out three assists.

"I knew I was scoring a lot in the first quarter, which is usually my slowest quarter," said Dekker, who scored 18 points in the first quarter and had 32 at halftime. "I looked at the scoreboard and I didn't know what to think. I came out in the second and hit four 3s in a row, so I knew I was in a groove. It was just one of those nights where everything was falling for me. I was having fun out there."

It also prompted some good natured ribbing from his future assistant coaches.

"Coach Gary Close texted me saying I need to score more," Dekker said. "They were all giving me a hard time, so it was pretty funny."

On Friday, Dekker, his 32.5 points per game and his teammates won the title outright, as he scored 38 points (his 13th 30-plus point game of the season) in a 66-60 home win over Ozaukee. That outburst gave Dekker 2,366 career points, moving him into seventh all-time in state history.

Even though Dekker signed his letter of intent back in November, the UW coaching staff is still acting like they are actively recruiting him. UW associate head coach Greg Gard drove two hours to Howards Grove to watch Dekker while Close also drove two hours to Kiel to watch a road game.

"That makes me feel like I am not only on board with them but they are 100 percent on board with me," said Dekker. "They want to be involved in everything I do right now as a person and as a basketball player. It makes me feel like Wisconsin was the right choice, and I have known that for the past two years. They make me feel like I have no doubts and I truly don't have any doubts because of the little things that they do."

Dekker has visited Wisconsin four times unofficially this season and plans to play in an All-American game in New Orleans and another all-star game at the Kentucky Derby festival that features some future Big Ten players.

He's playing in those all-star games because he was not one of the 24 high school seniors selected to participate in the prestigious McDonald's All-American game, partly because not many people have seen him play compared to some of the other high-ranked recruits and that Dekker committed so early that other big schools didn't recruit him.

Dekker would have been the fourth UW player selected to the game - joining Rashard Griffith (1993), Sam Okey (1995) and Brian Butch (2003) – but instead will use it as extra fuel to his fire.

"To be completely honest and being a competitor, it did sting," said Dekker. "I felt like I proved myself, but obviously not to what (the selection committee) thought. I am not going to pout about it, so it's just another motivation factor for me to go out and play and show some people what I can do.

"The McDonald's All-American game is one game. Going to the University of Wisconsin is for four years."

Before he does all of that, Dekker wants to lead the Crusaders (18-4) to a couple more wins and a date in March at his future arena.

"We're definitely geared for a deep run," said Dekker. "We were a good team last year, but we were in a tough sectional. I think we are a much tougher matchup for many teams than last year. I think this team is bound for state, at least I hope we are, and I truly believe we can get down there to win our first state title for our school."

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