Teams like Kentucky and Kansas get most of the hype around big-name college players because the majority of their prospects play one year in college and then make a name for themselves in the NBA.
The Badgers, on the other hand, consistently keep players for three or four years, and rarely send more than one or two guys to the draft every few years.
While names like Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes, and Bronson Koenig resound in fans’ heads due to their current success, it’s easy to forget the talent that has come through Madison in the last twenty or so years.
On one hand, Wisconsin players might not end up as prevailing superstars, but most Badger fans will remember these players names for the rest of their life.
Keep in mind that these players will be ranked based on mainly success in college, but also based on their performance after graduating or entering the draft.
10. Marcus Landry
Brother of Carl Landry, Marcus lead the Badgers in scoring, blocks and field goal percentage in 2009, when the Badgers won 20 games and Landry scored 12.7 points per game. He was Second Team All-Big Ten twice and finished fifth in Badger history with 99 blocks. While he wasn’t drafted, Landry has played on a few teams in the NBA, such as the Knicks and the Kings.
9. Trevon Hughes
Hughes tied the UW record for wins with 105, and scored 1,339 points in his career. He scored 15.3 points per game his senior season in 2009, and was a starter on the 2008 Big Ten Championship team that won 31 games. He was on the 2010 All-Big Ten Defensive Team and finished third in UW history with 177 steals.
8. Mike Wilkinson
Wilkinson, often thought of as one of Bo Ryan’s first shooting big men to define the grit and strength of the program, played at UW from 2001 to 2005. His senior year was his best statistically, scoring 14.0 points per game, leading the Badgers in minutes, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Wilkinson’s efforts help lead the Badgers to the Elite Eight that season. He would play internationally after playing at Wisconsin.
7. Jordan Taylor
One of the top Badger players of recent history that commonly gets forgotten is Jordan Taylor. He was a Second Team All-American his junior season, and was honorable mention All-American his senior year. Taylor is seventh all time in scoring for the Badgers with 1,533 points, and led the NCAA in assist-turnover ratio as a junior. He played on some solid Badger squads, but never managed to make it beyond the Sweet Sixteen. Despite his success in college, Taylor was not drafted, and never managed to make an NBA team.
6. Jon Leuer
Leuer was First Team All-Big Ten in 2011, and was honorable mention for All-American as well. He managed to rank in the top five in the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding for two consecutive seasons, and is 14th all time in scoring for the Badgers. Leuer was drafted 40th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2011, and has quietly had a solid NBA career by floating around to different teams. He currently is averaging over 11 points per game for the Detroit Pistons, and has used his jump shooting effectively in the NBA.
5. Sam Dekker
Dekker’s dominant college days were slightly overshadowed by Frank Kaminsky, who received a lot of the credit for the Badgers success. Despite this, Dekker scored 1,363 points in just three years, as he turned down the option to play his senior year so he could enter the draft. Dekker was Second Team All-Big Ten his junior season, when he managed to put up 13.9 points per game. Despite missing most of his rookie season with the Rockets due to injury, Dekker has found his role on the team, averaging 7.4 points per game.
4. Kirk Penney
The New Zealand native was one of the first players in the early 2000s to get this Badgers program to where it is today. A member of the 1999-00 Final Four team, Penney did not play much as a freshman, but would gain a valuable role in his upperclassmen years. Penney averaged 15.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game to guide the Badgers to a share of the Big Ten title. He then averaged 16.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game his senior year to lead the Badgers to a Big Ten regular season championship. Penney has played internationally the majority of his career, currently in New Zealand.
3. Devin Harris
Harris was a member of back to back Big Ten Championship teams, and was a runner up for the 2004 Naismith Award. After averaging 19.4 points in his third and final year for the Badgers, Harris was drafted fifth overall by the Washington Wizards. He managed to score 1,425 points for Wisconsin, despite playing just three years. Harris’ NBA accolades are just as impressive, as he was the starting point guard for the Mavericks when they made the NBA Finals, and was an All-Star in 2009 with New Jersey. He is in his 15th NBA season, currently playing for the Mavericks again, and has averaged double-digit scoring in the NBA eight times.
2. Alando Tucker
Wisconsin’s all time leading scorer could be at the top of this list had his NBA career panned out any better. Tucker played for five seasons due to an injury his sophomore year, which gave him an extra year of eligibility. He earned the title of Big Ten Player of the Year in 2007, along with being listed as a First Team All-American. Tucker managed to score 716 points his senior year, which was the most points scored in a season by any Badger. Tucker never made it beyond the Elite Eight, but helped his team reach the 30-win mark in his senior season. Unfortunately for Tucker, the NBA just wasn’t a good fit for him, as he was only 6’6″ and lacked a good enough jump shot to play consistent minutes. He played in the D-League for a few years, and then went overseas, where he currently plays in the Israeli League.
1. Frank Kaminsky
The 2015 National Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky is the only Badger to ever win the Naismith Award and the Wooden Award. What is most impressive about him was his development under Bo Ryan. Kaminsky averaged under five points per game his first two seasons, but managed to score 1,458 points in his career. His senior year, he led the Badgers in points, assists, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. He also led Wisconsin to its first Final Four since 2000, and was part of the team that won the most games in Badger history (36 in one season). Kaminsky was drafted ninth by the Hornets in 2015, where he failed to stand out his rookie season. However, Kaminsky has had a solid second season in the NBA, as he recently scored a career-high 27 points and also impressed in the Rising Stars Game. If history repeats itself, Kaminsky could continue to develop as a player and have a successful NBA career.
Honorable Mentions: Ben Brust, Joe Krabbenhoft, Brian Butch, Josh Gasser, Michael Flowers, Mike Bruesewitz