StaTuesday: Badgers forward Ethan Happ’s special season

This has not been a typical season for Wisconsin basketball. The Badgers enter the Big Ten tournament with faint postseason dreams, thanks to a lackluster 14-7 record.

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Barring a magical run in New York City, Wisconsin will miss the NCAA tournament or NIT for the first time in decades.

Also atypical have been the numbers being put up by Ethan Happ. It’s been perhaps somewhat lost in the shuffle due to the Wisconsin’s up-and-down play and poor record, but the junior forward is doing things rarely seen by a Badgers player.

Entering the Big Ten tournament, Happ is averaging 17.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Those numbers can change based on Wisconsin’s remaining game(s), but (for what it’s worth) in four previous games at Madison Square Garden, Happ has averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.

By finishing with over 17 points and eight rebounds per game, Happ will accomplish a rarity in Wisconsin hoops history. Since 1950*, only 12 players have reached those averages in a season, and only two of those have come in the last three decades. Happ and Frank Kaminsky will be the only ones to do it in the past 20 years.

(* Note – Rebound averages weren’t compiled in the record books from 1950 and earlier, but the 1949-50 Badgers hoops team shot 29.2 percent from the field. Opponents shot 27.6 percent. So while the peach basket was gone, basketball was played just a bit different back then.)

PLAYER SEASON PPG RPG
Ken Siebel 1962-63 17.7 12.8
Jack Brens 1962-63 17.7 12.8
Chuck Nagle 1966-67 19.3 8.0
Joe Franklin 1967-68 22.7 13.9
James Johnson 1968-69 19.3 8.8
Dale Koehler 1974-75 18.2 10.1
Dale Koehler 1975-76 19.4 10.1
Claude Gregory 1979-80 18.4 8.8
Claude Gregory 1981-82 20.4 9.2
Cory Blackwell 1983-84 18.9 8.7
Rashard Griffith 1994-95 17.2 10.8
Frank Kaminsky 2014-15 18.8 8.2
Ethan Happ 2017-18 17.9 8.2

But Happ isn’t just about scoring and rebounding. He’s also averaging 1.5 steals per game and 1.0 blocks.

And, oh yeah, his passing.

For the third consecutive season Happ has increased his assists per game, from 1.3 as a freshman to 2.8 as a sophomore and 3.8 this season. What else is notable about that? Few big men have shown that kind of proficiency over the last 20 years.

Happ is currently tied for eighth-best assist average for players 6-foot-9 or taller since the 1996-97 season. For players 6-10 or taller, he’s third. (Again, this could change pending on what Happ does to end the season but also Utah’s Tyler Rawson; the Utes play its season finale March 3, then the Pac-12 tournament and very likely will be in the NCAA tournament or NIT).

PLAYER HGT SCHOOL SEASON APG
Kyle Anderson 6-9 UCLA 2013-14 6.5
T.J. Cline 6-9 Richmond 2016-17 5.6
Ben Simmons 6-10 LSU 2015-16 4.8
Jerald Honeycutt 6-9 Tulane 1996-97 4.2
Nick Thompson 6-9 Utah Valley 2012-13 4.2
Brian Heinle 6-9 CS-Northridge 2000-01 3.9
Tyler Rawson 6-10 Utah 2017-18 3.9
T.J. Cline 6-9 Richmond 2015-16 3.8
Ethan Happ 6-10 Wisconsin 2017-18 3.8
Greg Monroe 6-11 Georgetown 2009-10 3.8
Lamar Odom 6-10 Rhode Island 1998-99 3.8
Chandler Parsons 6-10 Florida 2010-11 3.8
Steve Taylor Jr. 6-9 Toledo 2016-17 3.7

Makes you wonder what he can do for one final encore — or if there will even be one. Perhaps best to just enjoy Happ’s final games of the season while you can.

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns