For Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard, the only thing he is worry about is if the envelope containing the necessary paperwork has the right address on it.
"I have to double check to make sure the zip code is right," Gard said with a laugh. "I slept fine last night knowing that we recruited two kids that we wanted and vice versa. If I am nervous on signing day, we've got a problem, but we've got two really mature kids who we trust in."
With another solid collective effort from Gard, Assistant Coaches Gary Close and Howard Moore and the Head Coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin's 2009 basketball signing class had no second thoughts or surprises, as the Badgers have two national letters of intent signed, sealed and faxed from Henry Sibley (MN) forward Mike Bruesewitz and Bolingbrook (IL) guard Diamond Taylor, officially making them members of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Bruesewitz, who gave his verbal commitment to UW on February 19, was described as a late bloomer by Gard, who was his recruiting coach during the process. Averaging 15.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and leading his team to a 26-6 record and a runner-up finish in the class 4A state tournament his junior year, Bruesewitz is a tireless worker who worked non-stop over the summer lifting weights and playing pick-up games in addition to his busy AAU schedule with the 43 Hoops. For Gard, the improvement over the past couple years has shown.
"He is now knocking down threes consistently and that's something he's worked on and he's gotten more consistent with his defense," Gard said. "He's the consummate worker. It was constant basketball for him over the summer and it got to the point where we had to tell him to take a little break to get his energy and strength back. He's a kid that will run through a brick wall for you and a player that wants to constantly get better."
Compared to a Joe Krabbenhoft-type player, Bruesewitz originally began his high school career at Litchfield H.S. but transferred to Henry Sibley to get more exposure. He achieved that last season during the state tournament, averaging 15 points and 13 rebounds per game and was selected to the All-Tournament team. But by then, Bruesewitz had already picked the Badgers over scholarship offers from Iowa, Valparaiso and Washington State. Now, Wisconsin is hoping that Bruesewitz turns out just like his older brother, Robert.
A three-year letterwinner at Princeton, Robert grew three inches in a short span, going from 6-foot-6 to a 6-9, 300-pound offensive tackle. Gard hopes the same height growth hits Mike
"We're hoping Mike has a little more left in him," Gard said. "He's not shaving yet and we tell him that's a good thing. He shaves about once every two months and it's always good to find guys like that who haven't hit the ceiling of maturity."
While the Badgers didn't spot Bruesewitz until later in the process, Wisconsin and recruiting coach Howard Moore has its eye on Diamond Taylor from an early age.
Compared to Devin Harris because of his ability to play both guard positions and because of his slim body type and to Michael Flowers because of the abilities he possesses defensively and with his feet, Moore believes that Taylor can develop, with a little strength and conditioning, into a solid guard for Wisconsin because of his ability to work off screens, guard opposing team's best player and the background he's developed in.
"He's the type of kid that he's been around people that really know how to teach the game," said Moore referring to Bolingbrook head coach Gene Pingatore. "(Gene) gave him some great things to build on in terms of fundamentals and things that Coach Ryan preaches, as well. Diamond has got a huge upset as far as being a guard that can score for us at different positions, defensively has to potential to be a very good player that can disrupt shooters, cause havoc in the lanes and create chaos on the perimeter."
Just like when Ryan was impressed with Bruesewitz's grit and blue-collar determination, the Wisconsin head coach was impressed with how Taylor plays the game and that his unselfishness has led to plenty of success for his high school team.
"He has a very good basketball I.Q. He's not selfish at all," said Moore of Taylor, who picked UW over 10 other offers. "He is a team player and everything he does offensively, even though he averaged 18 points a game for St. Joes last year, he never forced anything and played within the system. There were a lot of good things that he showed for Coach Ryan."
With Wisconsin only having two spots for the 2009 class and Gard and Moore having their targets, Coach Close was seemingly left out in the cold. While Close hasn't directly signed a player since Jason Bohannon in 2006, the 52-year-old coaching veteran is hardly sitting on his hands during the process.
"It just worked out that Howard has his connection in Chicago and I have mine in Minnesota and there were a lot of people we looked at," Gard said. "We decided as a group that these two were the best fit in what we wanted and made up are mind. We had Diamond in camp when he was just a pipsqueak before he went into high school. Mike was one of those that flew under the radar, not many knew about and bang, here he was."
After looking at a variety of talented prospects throughout the Midwest for months on end, the Badgers focused in on Bruesewitz and Taylor and within a one-month span in the early spring, the Badgers got both players to say ‘Yes' to UW. To make things even better, the Badgers got 2010 verbal commitments from Madison's Vander Blue on April 29 and Eau Claire's Evan Anderson on May 3, marking a remarkable 75-day stretch for the Badgers and their signees.
"It took the pressure off for us in getting those classes completed but at the same time, we did a lot of evaluating for the future," Moore said. "It helps when you have some good in-state kids that can help you get the process done. We did a lot of background work and footwork and when we started evaluating, it made sense to go after the players we did. There's no secret in our recruiting, we want to get good kids that want to do things the right way, want to be coaches and get an education from a great school. We got two signed and hopefully we can say the same for next year."