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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Few Badger basketball stars would make it at the pro level

Each year Wisconsin usually sends multiple athletes to the NFL and the NHL system, but only once every few years does a Badger make the NBA. Obviously the size of the rosters has a lot to do with that, and the fact that UW rarely lands a hallmark recruit with an NBA future already mapped out for him. Let's take a look at some Badgers on this year's squad and what kind of chances they have at making the league.

Trevon Hughes

Hughes began the season showing drastic improvement from his junior year. He showed he was ready to become Wisconsin's primary scoring option and a player often called upon to take the game's last shot.

His outside shooting has taken a step up this season, shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range, with a great deal of those attempts coming from particularly deep range and with hands in his face. For the NBA, his shooting skills as a point guard would be slightly below average, but not a tremendous liability.

Hughes relies on the 3 too much, though: the senior guard has not shown an ability to consistently get to the rim off the dribble, something that will trouble NBA scouts. He averages under three assists, too low for a point guard hoping to make the NBA.

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One part of Hughes that scouts will like is his athleticism. He's the most athletic player on the team, particularly on defense. Hughes can get in players' faces in man-to-man schemes and be a pest to opposing players. He's also a defensive playmaker, a defender who can force multiple turnovers each game and create run-out situations for his team. Hughes could adequately guard point guards in the NBA.

But Hughes is clearly a shoot-first point guard who can't shoot and drive to the basket at an NBA level, thus his chances in the league are not good. If a team decides to take a flyer on Hughes, it'll have to believe he can come off the bench as a fresh body on defense, and improve his passing ability and ability to drive to the basket.

Chances: 1/5

Jason Bohannon

Wisconsin's other senior prides himself solely on his spot-up shooting from long range. Bohannon can get hot and, at times, shoot as well as anyone in the country. But Bohannon is also inconsistent with his 3-point shooting, and can't do much else particularly well. He can't consistently create his own shot, he can only drive to the rim with ample space and has never been an exceptional passer.

Defensively, he's improved since coming to UW but isn't quick enough, and his size would prevent him from guarding anyone other than a point guard in the NBA.

Chances: 1/50

Jon Leuer

Despite an injury this season, Leuer showed the most improvement on Wisconsin from last season. He put on size and developed a much more consistent post game from low and high. Before the season, Hughes said Leuer had one of the best turnaround games in the country, and when he said it I rolled my eyes. But now that statement doesn't sound as crazy.

Leuer can also rebound fairly well, and his size has a lot to do with that, standing 6'10"" and having added some additional bulk to his body.

Offensively Leuer has the tools and ability to succeed at the NBA level.

Defensively, he isn't the quickest player and he's not the most athletic either. He can't jump out of the gym like some other NBA prospects might be able to do.

But Leuer's height gives him a great chance, and his progression on offense could excite scouts. And being a junior, he still has another year to improve and add some weight.

Chances: 1/ 2

Keaton Nankivil

First off, looking at Nankivil's height, 6'8"", he'd either be a small forward or an undersized power forward in the NBA. Nankivil has virtually no post game, and would have trouble down low with NBA power forwards, so playing the 4 isn't really a possibility for the junior.

If Nankivil were to play as a small forward, he'd have tremendous difficulty keeping up with other small forwards in the NBA on defense because he's not quick enough.

Nankivil's greatest strength is his outside shooting, which is fairly impressive for his size. In the NBA, he could hit those mid- and long-range shots, but he wouldn't be able to create much for himself. Put simply, Nankivil's not big enough to play down low in the NBA and not quick enough to play around the perimeter.

Chances: 1/25

How do you think Wisconsin players will do if they make the pros? E-mail Scott at kellogg2@wisc.edu.

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