The NBA draft scouting combine isn’t an event that usually appears on the radar of Wisconsin fans. After all the Badgers have had only seven players selected in the first round of the draft since 1950 and only two since head coach Bo Ryan took over in 2001 (none since 2007).
But there will be a handful of glances directed toward the annual event being held this week in Chicago thanks to former players Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky both having real possibilities of being selected in the first round of next month’s draft (June 25 in New York City).
Both are consensus top 20 picks based on reputable mock draft sites and could climb even higher based on the next few days, even though neither plan on participating in 5-on-5 workouts.
“I’m just trying to prove that I’m just as athletic as everyone else out here,” Dekker told NBA.com. “I am going to show physically I can match up with anybody. I just think that at every level I’ve been able to win and compete hard. No matter (what) jersey I’m wearing, I’ve represented them well.”
Both players put themselves in their current position after having outstanding 2014-15 seasons.
Dekker shook off an early season ankle injury to average 13.9 points and earn a consensus second-team All-Big Ten selection but was even better on Wisconsin’s run to a second straight Final Four. Named the 2015 NCAA West Region's Most Outstanding Player, Dekker averaged 19.2 points while shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from 3-point range in six NCAA tournament games.
The 6-9 junior from Sheboygan declared for the draft four days after the Badgers finished runner-up in the national championship game. He has since relocated to Chicago to train.
“The things I can bring an organization is being a threat offensively and defensively, just making it tough on my opponents,” said Dekker, who said he has reached out to NBA players Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons and models his game after them. “I try to model my game after a lot of players. I play inside and out so I can learn from a lot of guys.”
Deciding to return for his senior year, Kaminsky delivered one of the greatest seasons in Wisconsin basketball history. The 7-footer from Lisle, Illinois, led the Badgers in points (18.8), rebounds (8.2), assists (103), blocks (57), field goal percentage (.547), 3-point field goal percentage (.416), free throws (156) and free throw attempts (200).
The only player in NCAA Division I to average at least 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, Kaminsky was the consensus national player of the year, winning every major award possible while also leading the Badgers to a sweep of the Big Ten championships.
“I think mentally I’m just in a better place than I was last year,” Kaminsky told NBA.com. “I hadn’t played much before my junior season and even for the first half of my junior season I hadn’t played well. I had some good games but consistency wise I wasn’t there like I wanted to be. I just knew if I went back to school we could do something special, and it was just too much to pass up.”
Kaminsky has been training in Santa Barbara, Calif., and says he is trying to improve athleticism, quickness, strength, offensive skill set and overall defense in preparation for the NBA.
“I always believe there’s always something more you can do to make yourself better,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard as long as I can.”