Less is More for Wisconsin

While they don't typically get the five-star, NBA-ready players, Wisconsin still finds ways to get the winning results.

MADISON - There's plenty of running jokes between the close-knit group that make up the University of Wisconsin locker room, most of them not for public consumption.

But according to Josh Gasser, one of the team mottos could be "unloved and unwanted."

"Going up against Wisconsin, all the talk is they don't get high recruits, but they always win," said Gasser, a former three-star, unranked recruit. "It's just kind of funny how we're not highly recruited, but yet we still win some games. It's the kind of tradition we have, and it's great to have."

When Wisconsin (30-7) takes on Kentucky (28-10) in the national semifinals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, it will represent a contrast in recruiting where there is really no comparison. Under Bo Ryan, Wisconsin offers the elite prospects, but usually recruits the talented players the staff can develop over a four-year period. Since 2001, UW has seen only one player – Devin Harris – leave early for the NBA draft, and that was after three seasons.

John Calipari on the other hand has recruited 16 McDonald's All-Americans to Kentucky (with more on the way) and has sent 13 players to the NBA after only one season since 2006.

Since 2010, the year Gasser arrived, the Badgers have landed one five-star recruit (Sam Dekker out of Sheboygan) and haven't had a recruiting class ranked in the top 25 by Scout.com.

Compare that to Kentucky, The Wildcats have landed 18 five-star players and have the top recruiting class in four of five years, including the top class from 2010-13.

And while that success has helped Kentucky make three Final Fours in the last four seasons and win a national championship, all that talent extra talent has given the Wildcats only 12 more wins than the Badgers (116-104).

"We obviously have great talent for Coach Ryan to do it year in and year out," said Gasser. "It obviously means you're doing something right."

Having upwards of five scholarships available for the 2015 recruiting class, Wisconsin has offered one five-star prospect in Milwaukee Dominican center Diamond Stone, who is ranked the No.1 center in the country. Beyond that, UW has offered four-star point guard Jarvis Johnson (Minneapolis), four-star center Henry Ellenson (Rice Lake, WI) and four-star center Josh Sharma (Northfield, MA).

And just because UW is in the Final Four, don't expect the Badgers to start targeting five-star players throughout the country.

"It's not going to change who we are," said associate head coach Greg Gard, who is also the team's recruiting coordinator. "We still have to keep that in mind, remember who we are and how we got here, what the process is, what the culture is here on the court and on campus. There's a certain way I feel it has to be done and has been done here (with) all the pieces and the requirements that make up the University of Wisconsin if done the right way. When you have all the things come together like this, it makes it that much more sweet.

"Sometimes it's a painful process and it takes time to develop, but I think player development and upper classmen leadership is huge. Those are key components for how you can be successful at Wisconsin with all those dynamics that go with it."

Asked earlier this week about the difficulty for him and his assistants to project a player's development over the course of a career, Ryan said it's all about the character in the end.

"If you're going to have scholarships being used, you want to make sure that the people that are using them are good students, going to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them," said Ryan. "You want people who have a vision of the future, want to get better.

"It's all about whether or not you look at the percentages and say, will this person make it here, and will this person make the most of their opportunity? And we've been very fortunate over the years that only a couple of guys have decided to go somewhere else where it didn't work out for them. But for the most part, the guys that come here and play at the University of Wisconsin stay and work and get better, and those are our kind of guys."

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