Since abruptly taking over the head coaching role December 2015, head coach Greg Gard has added some new twists and minor changes to the Wisconsin basketball program while keeping a lot of the things the same.
After all if it isn’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. That’s the approach Lamont Paris has taken to filling Gard’s shoes.
Taking over an associate head coaching role Gard had been in since July 2008, Paris – entering his seventh season on the Wisconsin staff – didn’t see a reason to reinvent Gard’s old role either.
“It’s really (a role) where your personality will come out a little bit more,” Paris said. “It’s not like you are orchestrating many things different.”
In addition to his usual role of preparing scouting reports, which he did to get No.16 Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) ready for Ohio State (15-13, 5-10) tonight in Columbus, Paris has taken on a bigger leadership now in the associate role, more of a buffer between the players and Gard. He’s also now in charge of coordinating the high school player development summer camps and being the leader in Wisconsin’s recruiting efforts.
“I’m thankful for the added responsibility and to be in a different role with the guys,” Paris said. “If you want to grow and ultimately be a head coach, which I aspire to be, these are things you have to do ultimately.”
That’s not to say he has kept everything status quo. Paris altered how Wisconsin’s master recruiting board looks – who UW is targeting and everything that goes along with it – to better fit how he likes things organized and presented, as well as how certain paperwork is logged with days spent on the road. He classified those things as details people will “never know or care about or influence things.”
“Ultimately the more things you can do and be responsible for, the more you grow for the better,” Paris said.
What people do care about is recruiting, which Gard and his staff have been proficient in. In its first full recruiting cycle, Wisconsin signed three prospects who were all rated four-star prospects at one time, including two top-100 players to give the staff the program’s first top-25 recruiting class (No.24) since Scout.com first starting ranking prospects (2005).
More importantly all three players – guards Brad Davison and Kobe King and forward Nathan Reuvers – were committed by July, allowing the Badgers to push their recruiting efforts out to further classes.
That’s a rarity for Wisconsin, which didn’t complete its last two classes until the spring signing period and got commitments from three its five-man 2013 class after August.
“We are in a position to attack some younger guys because these older guys committed early than some guys in the past,” Paris said. “The three (2017) guys we hosted on the official visit had already committed, whereas Nigel’s year, Nigel was here on an unofficial visit uncommitted, Charlie (Thomas) was here on a visit uncommitted.
“Having three guys who committed early and having some success in the ’18 class, it allows you to spend some time in the ’19 class. I know some other universities who have four scholarships to fill and didn’t have one commit in mid-September. Needless to say they were putting all their focus on the 2017 kids and we had to luxury of being able to spend some time with some younger kids.”
Getting a jump start on 2018 and beyond has already yielded success, especially with the strong talent pool in the Midwest. UW has already landed four-star prospect Tyler Herro, sit well with five-star center Joey Hauser and have developed strong connections with highly-regarded prospects in the 2018 and 2019 class from Minnesota.
“Within the confines of where we normally span out and recruit, there are some pretty high level recruits,” Paris said. “We have relationship with them, they have relationship with other guys we’ve recruited and even some current players we have on the team.”
Even with new full-time assistants Joe Krabbenhoft and Howard Moore on staff, Paris says the staff’s synergy has been one of its biggest strengths, allowing everyone to ease into their new roles for maximum effect.
“We’ve always handled everything as a group in terms of recruiting, scouting reports, individual improvements,” Paris said. “Nobody is trying to take more credit than another guy, which is rare in this profession. You look at other staffs, you don’t always find that. None of us have an ego. None of us care.”