During his 13 seasons in charge of Wisconsin’s basketball program, Bo Ryan has guided the Badgers to new heights. His teams have reached the NCAA tournament every season, he has five Big Ten titles, a school-record 321 victories and most recently helped UW reach its first Final Four in 14 seasons.
Of course, great players are needed to achieve great success. And Ryan certainly has had his fair share of talent. So, who are the best players in the Ryan era? Who would make the "All-Bo Starting 5" from his past 13 teams? FOXSportsWisconsin.com seeks an answer to the question this week and will reveal a new "Starting 5" member each day.
The criteria to make the list include overall impact on Bo-coached teams, statistics and team success. There are a mix of both backcourt and frontcourt players to provide different positions on the court. In other words, there are not five point guards or five forwards on the team.
Here’s a look at Player 4 of 5:
Forward: Jon Leuer
Why he’s on the squad:
Leuer pulled off the unusual feat of leading Wisconsin in both scoring average and rebounding for two consecutive seasons, in 2009-10 and 2010-11. In fact, only two other players have accomplished the feat in even one season during the Bo Ryan era. Brian Butch led the Badgers in scoring and rebounding in 2007-08, while Frank Kaminsky did the same last season.
Leuer increased his scoring average each season, from 2.9 points as a freshman to 8.8 points to 15.4 points to 18.3 points. He also averaged 5.8 rebounds as a junior and 7.2 boards during his senior season. His 621 points during the 2010-11 season, his senior year, was the third most in a single season in Wisconsin history. Leuer was an honorable mention Associated Press All-American as a senior. He played in 123 career games with 68 starts and had 22 career games with at least 20 points.
Post-Wisconsin basketball career:
Leuer was drafted No. 40 overall in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2011 NBA Draft. During his rookie season, he appeared in 46 games and averaged 4.7 points with 2.6 rebounds. Leuer wound up with the Cleveland Cavaliers to start the 2012-13 season but was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in January 2013 and has since found a home there. He re-signed with the Grizzlies in July 2013. In 2013-14, he averaged career highs in points per game (6.2) and rebounds (3.2) while recording 13.1 minutes per game.
Who would be Leuer’s backup?
If it’s possible to split the backup slots, then we’ll go with both Mike Wilkinson and Sam Dekker. Wilkinson became just the second Wisconsin player to finish his career with at least 1,500 points and 800 rebounds. He also averaged 14.3 points per game as a senior and was an all-conference selection. He has played professional basketball in Greece, Russia, Turkey and Bulgaria. He currently plays for BC Levski Sofia.
Dekker’s college career isn’t nearly complete, but based on what we’ve seen and the expectations for this season, he certainly makes the cut. Dekker, in fact, could wind up as one of Bo Ryan’s all-time best players. Still, he is just 20 years old and is about to enter his junior season, so there is plenty of room for growth.
Dekker averaged 9.6 points per game as the team’s sixth man during his freshman season in 2012-13. He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in helping to lead the team to the Final Four.
Dekker could very well become one of the few players in the Ryan era to leave college early for the NBA. He has grown two inches and gained nine points since last season and, at 6-foot-9 and 229 pounds, could turn into a dominant college basketball player this year. Many pundits already declared him the best player at the recently completed LeBron James basketball camp in Las Vegas, and the sky appears the limit for Dekker.