Kaminsky Keys Turnaround

After struggling through the middle part of his junior season, center Frank Kaminsky's turnaround down the stretch is one of main reasons No.12 Wisconsin earned a two seed and will open the NCAA tournament in Milwaukee.

MADISON - There haven't been many low points throughout the course of Wisconsin's 2013-14 basketball season, but the month of January provided multiple opportunities for players to get down in the dumps.

Frank Kaminsky remembers the lowest of the lows.

With only two days to prepare after a bizarre home loss to Northwestern, Kaminsky missed a practice and then shot 1-for-6 in a one-point home loss to Ohio State, the Badgers fifth loss in six games.

"I didn't have a good game and I remember after the game feeling really sorry for myself," he said. "I didn't want to happen again. I didn't want to let my teammates down anymore."

With his team stuck in reverse after a 16-0 start, Kaminsky started flexing the confidence he showed when he dropped a school-record 43 points in November down the stretch, averaging 16 points and 7.3 rebounds over the last eight games.

Those numbers don't include Kaminsky's 12 rebounds in the Big Ten quarterfinals or his 28 points in the Big Ten semifinals.

"He doesn't realize how good he can be but when he's mentally in it and he's focused, that's when nobody can stop him," said guard Traevon Jackson. "He's been consistent, and it's been fun to see him play because he's so versatile and has size. He really has a high ceiling."

His poise down the stretch helped Kaminsky raise his scoring average 9.4 points from his junior year, the third highest increase in the league (he averaged just 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in 10.3 minutes of action a year ago). He also was named a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, the 11th all-conference honor in Bo Ryan's 13 seasons.

"Some things happened that didn't go his way, and he fought right back through that and made the next play happen," said assistant coach Lamont Paris. "I think some of that has to do with his maturity and having some success on the season. In this stretch, he's been rewarded with some good offensive production."

Kaminsky started to dig himself out of his rut on Feb.9. He scored 10 points in a home win over Michigan State – the first time in three games he broke the double-digit barrier – and shot 4-for-6 from the floor, much better than his 4-for-16 shooting the previous three games.

"I remember saying one day that if we don't pick this up, don't turn this around, this isn't going to go the way we planned," said Kaminsky. "I tried to go out, be aggressive and try to win basketball games, just do everything I could to win the game."

That was a theme throughout the roster down the stretch, but nobody took it more to heart than Kaminsky.

In addition to his points and rebounds down the stretch, Kaminsky shot 50.5 percent (50-for-99) from the field and registered four 20-point games, numbers that helped Wisconsin earn a top four Big Ten finish for the 13th straight year under Ryan.

That presence is one of the reasons why the junior is one of the key pieces to Wisconsin (26-7) making a deep run in the NCAA tournament, which starts Thursday for the second-seeded Badgers when they take on 15th-seed American (20-12) at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

Kaminsky leads the Badgers in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounds (6.4 rpg), blocks (57) and field goal percentage (.524), while ranking 2nd in and 3-point field goal percentage (.388).

"It makes the game a lot easier, takes a lot of pressure off the team on the perimeter, because you know you can throw the ball into the post and get something good out of it," said Jackson of Kaminsky. "Whether it's a basket, a foul or a kick out, it's really good to see him playing and having fun."

There are many moments Kaminsky latches on to as games that invigorated his stretch run. He points to the home win over Minnesota when he started off each half with a thunderous dunk to get the home crowd excited.

In Wisconsin's 75-62 win at Michigan, one of the defining victories of the season, Kaminsky attacked driving lanes, finished around the basket and drew fouls. He finished with 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting, registered his first career double-double with 11 rebounds and said that, "I could have scored all night long."

"That's the area he's improved the most; off the dribble, getting in the paint and creating for someone or for himself," said Paris. "For a guy who is 7-foot, it's not always easy to do for a bigger guy."

Graduating three post players off last year's team, outsiders wonder how effective the low-post play would be for the Badgers. With Kaminsky with his accolades and freshman Nigel Hayes earning sixth man of the year, the Badgers have turned another potential weakness into team strength to make a push in March.

"Nigel has been a great motivator to me," said Kaminsky. "He's aggressive, he comes off the bench and gives energy. With me, I am not the brute force that Nigel is, but I try to go down there and get things done. When the top six people are your team are getting awards in the Big Tem, you have a good team, you have team success and a lot of things are working for you."

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