With the Wisconsin Badgers’ season nearing its opener, there are still plenty of unanswered questions for Greg Gard and his staff. A major question is who is going to step up and fill the holes left by key players, like guards Johnny Davis and Brad Davidson.
Luckily for Wisconsin, there are still a plethora of talented, unproven Badgers who now have the opportunity to step into greater roles. If Wisconsin hopes to build on last year’s momentum, they will need help from some lesser-known contributors.
The first player to watch heading into the 2022-23 season is Kamari McGee, a sophomore guard transfer from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. McGee’s quickness off the dribble and ability to score at all three levels is going to be crucial as the Badgers try to fill the NBA sized gap that Davis has left behind.
At Green Bay, the point guard averaged a team high 11.6 points and 1.9 assists on the season, with 17.6 points on 50.7% FG in his last five games to end the season. These stats earned him a selection to the Horizon League’s all-freshman team.
An important aspect of McGee’s game, and one of the reasons he is a major key to Wisconsin, is his ability on both ends of the court. The guard’s 1.1 steals and stellar on-ball defense is going to be key to the Badgers finding rhythm in the backcourt.
If the Badgers want to match last year’s results, they will need McGee to step in and make an impact.
The next Badger to keep an eye on heading to the season is Max Klesmit. Klesmit is a junior guard transfer from Wofford College. Coming from Wofford as one of their leading scorers, Klesmit was a dependable player the Terriers could turn to when their offense wasn't clicking.
Klesmit is the type of player who’s always willing to shoot – for good reason. He was the team’s second leading scorer at 14.9 points per game with a 44.6% field goal percentage. A bulk of those points came from his 68 three pointers, shooting at 34% from beyond the arc.
The public got to see the junior guard play in Badger red for the first time during Sunday’s Red-White Scrimmage. Klesmit did not disappoint, leading the team with 17 points — nine of which came from beyond the arc. Showing no nerves, Klesmit came out ready to prove he is here for a reason.
It will be a fun year for Badger fans to watch him play off of McGee and Chucky Hepburn in the backcourt with Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl in the frontcourt – if Klesmit is moved down to the three spot as expected.
Tyler Wahl is a player the Badgers need to have step up and come into his own if they want to accomplish their goals this season.
Last season, the senior forward averaged 11.4 points per game, playing an average of 30 minutes a night. Wahl showed flashes of the two-way star he has the potential to be but lacked the consistency necessary to make that leap.
Entering his senior season without Johnny Davis, there is hope he is the next Badger to step up and fill that go-to scoring role. Although it would be nice for Wahl to make a Davis-type leap in production, that seems unlikely, as his slow play style leaves a lot to be desired when comparing his production to Davis’.
The season is not fully dependent on Wahl’s stardom. However, a stable scorer that can be a presence in the paint on both ends would pay dividends for the success of the Badgers this year. Having Wahl as a force inside can completely open up Wisconsin’s offense.
Wahl serving as an asset for guards like Hepburn, McGee and Klesmit is huge, especially when shots aren't falling and the offense needs a spark. Wahl has been the poster boy of mediocrity throughout his Badger career, and this season will provide a golden opportunity to step into a bigger role and be the difference-maker for Wisconsin.