MADISON - To help fill out a upcoming roster with some gaping holes to fill, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has added another shooter to its 2015 recruiting class.
And the Badgers had to go across the pond to do it.
After visiting the school last week, Belgian forward Andy Van Vliet announced his verbal commitment to Wisconsin Monday.
“It’s been a crazy ride and a great opportunity for me and my family,” Van Vliet told BadgerNation. “It’s an honor to be in this situation.”
He becomes the fifth verbal commitment in Wisconsin’s 2015 recruiting class, joining guard Brevin Pritzl of De Pere; forward Alex Illikainen of Grand Rapids, Minnesota; forward Khalil Iverson of Delaware, Ohio and forward Charlie Thomas of Clarksville, Maryland.
Along with visiting the Badgers, Van Vliet (pronounced FLEET) took official visits with his parents to Oklahoma State, St. Mary’s and Washington State over an eight day period. He had offers from each school, but Wisconsin easily stuck out the most when he was on campus April 22-24.
"When I made my visit, I immediately felt comfortable with the players and the coaching staff," said Van Vliet, who got to scrimmage with the team. "The coaching staff has so much experience at making players better and being successful. The players were really great to me. Everybody was really nice. It was one big family that was extremely dedicated."
Knowing he was going to be the first one from his family to ever attend college in the United States, Van Vliet said he was equally impressed with the level of academics the school provided its players.
"I had a chance to meet a lot of people, including Chancellor Blank, the Dean of Students and the chair of the student department, and they really made me aware of what a great academic school this is. That's something that's really important to me as well. I know there is life after basketball, and I want to be fully prepared for that. From what I have seen, the academic part at Wisconsin is really good."
Saying he's 6-11 and 203 pounds, Van Vliet knows he has to get stronger for the college game but plans on playing this fall.
"I talked to the coaching staff several times and the plan is for me to come in and immediately play and help the team," said Van Vliet. "It's not like I am redshirting or sitting on the bench for a lot of time...I definitely know I have to get stronger. I know I have work to do, but I can't wait to get started and start a new chapter in my life. I know strength is a very important part of the college basketball game."
Playing professionally for the Antwerp Giants in Belgium, where he was born and lived his entire life, the 19-year-old forward is defined by Europeanprospects.com as a “shooting guard in a center body.” While he routinely played on the "B" team, Van Vliet says he regularly scrimmaged against the "A" team and was a part of the top roster a handful of times.
"Right now I am practicing with the professionals on the first division and I'm playing my games with the second division team," said Van Vliet. "On the first division team we have a lot of American players. I've talked to a lot of them. I think it's been great to prepare for this level of college basketball, because they have been there and they have done that. I think it's prepared me real well."
With no players listed on Wisconsin's current roster over 6-9, Van Vliet’s shooting touch could be a welcomed addition. With the departure of four seniors, including national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, and junior Sam Dekker declaring for the NBA draft, Wisconsin needs to replace 65.7 percent of its scoring, 60.1 percent of its rebounding, 59.5 percent of its assists, 70.1 percent of its blocks and 63.8 percent of its steals.
Van Vliet said Wisconsin's coaching staff first got in contact with him after the Badgers finished as the runner up in the Final Four.
“I’ve been watching and following Wisconsin since last season,” Van Vliet said. “I was immediately attracted to the program. It’s actually funny because a couple of months ago I told a close friend of mine that it would be a dream come true if the University of Wisconsin ever reached out to me. And here we are. It really is a dream come true and I think it is a perfect fit for what I’m looking for. It’s the best place for me to be the best I can be academically and athletically.”
While his stats are incomplete, Van Vliet appears to have averaged around 14.4 points per game and shoots around 35 percent 3-point range. Possessing solid ball-handling skills, a nice mid-range shot and roster flexibility, he appears a perfect fit for Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan’s offense.
"I think they do a great job at developing players while being successful at the same time," said Van Vliet, who said some of the things in his game are similar to what Kaminsky does. "I love their international style of play, and they play really smart. I think this is a perfect fit for me."
Should everything go smoothly with his application for a VISA, Van Vliet will join the Badgers this summer for conditioning.
"I really can't wait to get over there, put all that work in and work with some of the most experienced people there are," said Van Vliet. "I can't wait."
Van Vliet’s commitment leaves Wisconsin with one open scholarship, which it could use in the 2015 or 2016 recruiting class.