Nov. 19, 2012
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin's 73-40 win over Cornell at the Kohl Center.
By MIKE LUCAS
There was a missed dunk, and a slam dunk with authority.
There was a 3-point hit from the right corner, and an air ball from the left.
There was the typical ebb and flow for a true freshman who’s getting on the job training.
Sam Dekker had seven points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 19 minutes.
He also had three turnovers in Sunday’s 73-40 win over Cornell at the Kohl Center.
It’s all part of the learning curve for Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin.
“I had a good stretch in the first half and I thought I was aggressive,” Dekker said.
Indeed, he had seven points and four rebounds.
“Then, I had two turnovers,” he said. “Those are plays that I can’t make.”
Dekker is not treated any differently than the fifth-year seniors, Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren.
A turnover will generally get you a seat on the bench.
“There’s not as much leniency as there was in high school,” observed Dekker, who led Sheboygan Lutheran to its first-ever WIAA state championship as a senior. “I got yanked right away.”
Not a problem, though. His focus is always on getting better.
“Those things will get fixed,” Dekker said. “I’ve just got to let the game come to me.”
One of the turnovers in the Cornell game underscored his unselfishness. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Dekker came down with a rebound and immediately looked for an open teammate.
But his baseline pass sailed past everyone to the opposite end of the floor.
“When I got that board, I should have gone up right away (and taken a shot),” he said. “But I thought Ben (Brust) was cutting to the top of the key and I just made a bad play.”
Truth is, Dekker makes far more good plays with his aggressiveness. That was illustrated in the Florida loss when he repeatedly attacked the rim against the talented Gators.
On three of his first possessions, he made something happen for himself – or a teammate – on dribble drives from the wing. At the end of the night, he had 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
“This is a part of my game that I’ve had forever,” Dekker said. “Coach (Bo Ryan) isn’t going to take that away from me and I’m going to continue to be aggressive.”
To his credit, Dekker already has a check list of things that he wants to improve on.
He started off by saying that he wants to “make smart plays and play good D” along with “being a sound fundamental player” while “learning how to fit within the system of Wisconsin basketball.”
Learning how to practice is part of UW freshman orientation, 101.
“Every day is a grind,” said Dekker, who played for his dad, Todd, at Sheboygan Lutheran. “But you have to be mature about it, and go in with a clear mind.”
On the eve of the Florida game, the Badgers practiced at the O-Dome in Gainesville.
During the scrimmaging, Dekker got fouled while going up for a shot, but none was called.
It was pretty obvious that he got fouled, too.
Dekker politely registered his surprise with an “Oh my goodness.” That was it.
Ryan was standing at mid-court and his expression never changed.
But he did remind him that there was no whining in basketball.
Speaking to the message, Dekker said, “You can’t be soft, you can’t play weak. They don’t call those fouls in practice because they want you go hard and make those baskets in the game.”
The practices have exposed Dekker to a different level of physicality.
“Going up against Ryan (Evans) and Mike (Bruesewitz) you can learn a lot because they’re veterans,” he said. “They expect a lot out of me even though I’m a freshman.”
Dekker has been making the transition to college basketball with another first-year player, guard Zak Showalter. Another coach’s kid, Showalter played for his dad, Steve, at Germantown.
“He’s playing hard and playing well,” Dekker said. “Having a good friend at your side, having someone to talk to – someone who understands what is going on – is a good thing to have.”
After Sunday’s game, Dekker held himself accountable for his mistakes.
He feels like he has to get better on the defensive end.
He also feels like he needs to take better care of the ball.
“That was just an observation from today,” Dekker said. “My turnovers weren’t very good plays. In Florida, I was pretty clean with the ball. Whenever I have a turnover, I’m always beating myself up.
“I can’t let that happen again.”
He’s learning fast.