Rakocevic Hits it Off with Ryan

One of the 2016 prospects starting to emerge on Wisconsin's recruiting radar, Westchester (IL) St. Joseph center Nick Rakocevic was one of the many visitors at the Badgers' game against No.9 Michigan State Sunday, and came away impressed.

MADISON - With the 2014 recruiting practically finished and having already identified its top targets for 2015, the Wisconsin basketball coaching staff has been able to start building relationship with 2016 prospects.

After hosting West Linn (OR) point guard Payton Pritchard for the Michigan game, the Badgers welcomed Westchester (IL) St. Joseph center Nick Rakocevic for the Badgers' 60-58 victory over No.9 Michigan State Sunday.

"I talked to the coaches before the game and they were telling me how the stadium was packed for every home game and how hard it was for them to lose at this place because the crowd and the students are amazing," Rakocevic told BadgerNation. "They weren't kidding."

Following the game, Rakocevic toured the locker room, strength room and spoke with strength coach Erik Helland before getting a chance to talk to UW coach Bo Ryan.

Rakocevic said Wisconsin started watching him play in December, saying assistant coaches Gary Close and Lamont Paris have come down to watch a few games. This weekend was his first opportunity to sit down with Ryan, who left a positive impression on Rakocevic throughout the afternoon.

"Coach Ryan said he's heard great things about me, how I fit the style of play with their big guys and that he's excited to look out for me this summer," said Rakocevic, who plays AAU with the Mac Irwin Fire. "When I was watching the game, he is a great coach. When someone goes wrong, he doesn't freak out. He's really calm, he cares about the players and is a really smooth coach. I like that. He's a player's coach.

"When I met him, my first impression was a down-to-earth guy who just loved the game. He has a great passion for coaching, and that's really important to me as a college coach … They are definitely one of the more interested schools in me, so I am really glad because that's a big time school."

After watching forwards Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky work against the low-post presence of the Spartans, Rakocevic can see himself fitting into what Wisconsin likes to run.

"I think my game fits pretty well," Rakocevic said. "They like a big guy who can do a little bit of everything, not just be on the low block. They like a guy who can dribble a little bit, pick and pop, play on the wing a little bit. I saw that with Dekker and I really like his game. I think him and I have similar games. I really think my game would fit well within their style of play with their big guys."

A 6-9 power forward/center already holds offers from Creighton, Miami (FL) and Northern Illinois and has been getting interest from DePaul, Duke, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Marquette, Northwestern, Purdue, Oregon and others.

"It's definitely motivation," said Rakocevic. "For me that was the biggest thing, getting a few solid offers down and getting my name out there to a bunch of schools. I was really happy because I've been working for this since I started playing basketball.

"I always wanted to be a good college basketball player and someday live my dream of being a NBA player or playing professionally overseas. I want to go against the best players in the nation. All these scholarship offers and interest, I am blessed, but it's motivation for me to keep working harder."

Over the last year, Rakocevic said he's pushed his game by having a good support system around him.

"I have a great coaching staff and great teammates who push me harder every day," Rakocevic said. "My older brother, who played at NIU, has been great, and he just wants me to work hard and get better every day. My family is my biggest supporters. That's the only thing you need to work hard. They want me to be successful and I want to be successful. I'm going to put the work in to be successful."

Rakocevic hopes to make stops at Duke, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon in the spring.

Wisconsin has already offered Gahanna (OH) Lincoln forward Matthew Moyer and Garfield Heights (OH) High forward Willie Jackson in the 2016 class.

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