Cain eager for UW opportunity

Glendale (Wis.) Nicolet forward finds right fit in academic, athletic offerings in Madison

Morris Cain wanted to play college basketball in Madison, Wis. so much he traveled to Houston to play for a team from Fort Wayne, Ind. to do so.

An all-conference performer at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wis., located some 85 miles east of Madison, Cain began to discuss the prospect of walking on at the University of Wisconsin with the Badgers' coaches late in his prep season. But Cain was not sure anything would come of those conversations.

"They were interested and (said to) send them a tape," Cain recalled Saturday, after scoring 18 points in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 1 All-Star game. "A lot of colleges say that and you send them a tape and it kind of leads to a dark road."

Cain, though, happened to call the UW staff while he was in Houston in late April, playing in the nationally renowned Kingwood Classic with Blessed IJN, a prominent AAU program based in Fort Wayne.

"I just made a lucky phone call and Coach Gard [Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard] was around and he came and saw me play," Cain said.

Gard must have liked what he saw. Soon after returning to Wisconsin, Cain visited the UW campus and was informed that a walk-on spot was open for him.

Cain had received interest from a variety of colleges in Division I, II and III, and had been waiting to hear about potential scholarship offers from some lower Division I schools. North Dakota State, for instance, wanted Cain to visit this summer with the possibility of receiving an offer.

"But I'd rather know what I'm doing now, get it squared away so I don't have to rush everything," Cain said.

He also received interest from Navy, Santa Clara, Toledo and Northern Iowa in Division I; North Dakota, Winona State and Lewis in Division II; and from the Division III programs in Wisconsin. But Cain had been eyeing UW-Madison for its academics and had already been accepted to the university. Joining the Badgers' basketball team was an added bonus.

"Let's say my high school career ended with basketball and I wasn't going to continue on, Wisconsin was the school I wanted to go to," he said.

Paul Hepp, Cain's coach at Nicolet and with the South All Stars, said that the walk-on arrangement was a mutually beneficial situation.

"He's a hard worker and he's very much excited," Hepp said. "He thinks so highly of Coach Ryan [UW head coach Bo Ryan] and his entire staff. I think he realizes that in that program he's going to be able to become the best player that he can be….

"He's got the athleticism that I think he can really help them in practice. Obviously as a walk-on your expectations are not to come in and get minutes. But he is going to do whatever he can to help the program out and become the best individual player he can be as well…

"And they know what kind of kid they are getting as far as character. He's a top-notch kid. Character. Attitude. They don't come a whole lot better than Morris."

Cain, who plans to major in business, remains focused on academics.

"Just to be able to say that you are a part of the Badgers, you are a part of the family, that's a great thing to do," he said, when asked about his expectations for this fall.

"A lot of people say, well I'm going to play at this college, (or) play at this college," Cain said. "But Wisconsin is a great school academically and athletically. And the thing is, if I never touch the ball, never see the floor, the worst thing I get is a great education from a great school."

Cain averaged about 14 points, five rebounds and two steals per game as a senior. He shot 62 percent from the floor and 77 percent from the free throw line. Saturday, his 18 points were the second-highest tally in the Division 1 game; he made 6 of 9 shots and 6 of 7 free throws in the contest and also tied a game high with five steals.

In his three seasons as a starter, Nicolet was 59-9 with three conference championships.

"One of the most unselfish kids you ever want to be around," Hepp said of Cain. "A great role model. A kid that I'll be able to use for years on down the road to help teach younger kids how to be on and off the court. A great scholar athlete. Just a very good kid overall."

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