The Young and the Talented

Take one look behind the Wisconsin bench Sunday and it's easy to see that the 2012 high school basketball class in the state of Wisconsin is full of talent. Realize that most of the 2012 athletes have the interest of the Wisconsin coaching staff and the outlook is bright for Badgers basketball.

MADISON - With the last weekend home game on Sunday for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball, it was the last chance to make an impression by displaying its product for some of the top high school players and risers in the Midwest.

With that thought in mind, Wisconsin's coaching staff made sure the house was packed full on up-and-coming in-state talent.

In addition to current Wisconsin commits Josh Gasser, Devon Hodges and George Marshall in attendance, forward Mike Shaw (2011, De La Salle) and guard Chasson Randle (2011, Rock Island) visited Madison again after being offered a scholarship early in the process, not to mention Menomonee Falls sophomore phenom J.P. Tokoto.

But as much as the Badgers want to grab those three athletes for the future, Wisconsin is starting to closely hone in on the Class of 2012 and its three available scholarships.

In attendance Sunday was Darrell Bowie, Phillip Nolan and Nic Stokes (2012, 6-foot, Milwaukee Rufus King), all members of the ultra-talented 16U Wisconsin Playground Warriors AAU squad.

Two of those kids in particular – Nolan and Bowie – are starting to catch the eye of the Wisconsin coaching staff. Nolan, a legit 6-foot-10, 200-pound 2012 forward with a 7-foot wingspan for Milwaukee Vincent, has been watched in the past by assistants Greg Gard and Howard Moore, and was finally able to take in a game at the Kohl Center.

"Phil really wanted to get up to a game because Coach Ryan had been so gracious in invited him before," said Ritchie Davis, Executive Director of the Warriors. "He didn't have practice, so it worked out nicely for him. He enjoyed it and not just the game, but the chance to see the facility at the Kohl Center, to meet some academic people and talk to some of the players.

"The best part of the whole time is getting the chance to speak to Coach Ryan and his staff, and that went really well for Phil."

Another one of the invitees for Sunday's game was Bowie, a 6-foot-7 2012 forward for Wauwatosa East. Bowie wasn't invited to the game until Saturday, as Ryan saw first hand his budding athleticism, grabbing five rebounds in the first two minutes on Saturday's game against Menomonee Falls.

"Darrell had a really good start to the game," Davis said. "When you watch Tosa East play that Darrell is a long, athletic kid that plays really hard with a determination. He has a passion for the game and has a respect for the game, which comes from his parents. His parents are two very good people that have done a phenomenal job with him."

This trip wasn't Davis' first to Madison with a couple of talented Playground Warrior prospects. During the season, Wisconsin has invited Nick Arenz (2012, 6'8", Onalaska), Sam Dekker (2012, 6'6", Sheboygan Lutheran), Wally Ellenson (2012, 6'4", Rice Lake), Bronson Koenig (2013, 6'1", La Crosse Aquinas), Austin Mecca (2013, 6'7", Manitowoc Lincoln) and Brett VandenBergh (2012, 6'5", De Pere), all of whom make up a powerful under-16 team for Davis, one he calls the most athletic group he's had in nearly a decade.

"I think we'll be pretty deep," he said. "The biggest thing is when you put a collection like that together, they have to remember that these is just one basketball. I have to believe our guys understand that the greater goal is for our guys to win some games, which will make things happen for them on the individual level.

"I am excited with what these kids are going to bring to the table, but I'd be remiss if I didn't say I was excited to see what happens in the post season for these kids. The kids in our program are gearing up for a good final of the post season."

One of those selfless players is Tokoto, the main reason Ryan and staff made the trip to Menomonee Falls Saturday. One of the highly-coveted recruits in the country, rated the third-best player in the 2012 class by, Tokoto recently took in the Duke-North Carolina game in Chapel Hill.

"The one thing about J.P. is that there is no entourage," Davis said. "For the average outsider looking in, what you see is what you get. He's a great kid and having a great season. He's enjoying the guys he is playing with. They start four seniors and him, which means he doesn't have to be the ‘go-to' guy all the time. The more people get a chance to watch him, the more people will see how unselfish he is and the quality of player he is. Once those seniors leave, I think people will really see him step into that leadership role."

There's also no timetable to make a decision and no favorites at the top of his list.

"They've taken the time in their schedule to see the schools that have offered J.P. a scholarship or shown him a lot of interest," Davis said. "I don't know if he's going to be doing that during the spring, but he's fortunate that he's been able to do most of that. He's following all the programs, and has had a lot of opportunities to speak with the coaches and the players. It's still an ongoing process, and I don't see him narrowing a list anytime soon."

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