The magical ride of the Wisconsin Badgers included a national semifinal victory over the previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Although their season ended in a heartbreaking loss for the national championship, the story of Wisconsin’s coach and most celebrated player is one for the record books.
After Catholic prep school in Lisle, Illinois, Frank Kaminski came to the University of Wisconsin to play basketball for Coach Bo Ryan. As a freshman, Kaminski was a lackluster performer. His season-high scoring effort was nine points.
Kaminski’s second season was pretty much a carbon copy of the first. He averaged 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He mostly rode the bench.
But Coach Ryan spotted promise in the shy, gangly kid from Lisle. So Ryan pushed him to give nothing less than his best. He made Kaminsky sweat and fight for a starter role. And Ryan communicated to Frank that he could be great.
Ryan’s investment paid off. At the end of Kaminsky’s junior season, he was named to the first team All-Big Ten. He scored 28 points and had 11 rebounds as Wisconsin defeated #1 seed Arizona to advance to the Final Four.
Frank the Tank
In his senior year, “Frank the Tank” was named first-team All American. He was the AP Player of the Year, the first Wisconsin player ever to receive the award.On April 5, 2015, he was named the Naismith College Player of the Year.
Bo Ryan’s commitment to develop young men like Frank Kaminsky is increasingly rare in an era when NBA-bound freshmen are recruited as “one-and-done” wonders to make brief stops on college campuses to catapult basketball programs into contention. Ryan’s approach feels less like the machine of 21st century college sports, and more like a space for young athletes to grow.
The Badgers are good for basketball – and those who celebrate the cultivation of people to reach their full potential. Coach Ryan may not have hoisted the national championship trophy, but he is a winner, and he has set a high bar for us all.