NEW YORK — The 2016-2017 Wisconsin Badgers created another very memorable season in the Wisconsin history books, highlighted by the incredible senior graduating class of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown. The senior foursome put together one of the most successful four year-runs in NCAA history for one group of players. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, they will not be back next year.
This year’s team lost in the most heartbreaking game of the tournament to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen, but as usual, Wisconsin fans can still get excited about next season.
“They say you want to leave the program in a better place than it was in when you got there,” said Hayes after the loss. “And, yeah, I think we’ve been able to do that.”
Along with All-American Ethan Happ, Wisconsin will return point guard D’Mitrik Trice, who started in Koenig’s place at one point this year when Koenig was hurt, and Khalil Iverson, a more athletic, defensive-minded player like Showalter. Those three appear to be the sure-thing starters for the Badgers next season, with the other two spots up for grabs.
In addition, the Badgers’ 2017 recruiting class is one of the best in program history, with Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball Kobe King, and Minnesota stars Brad Davison and Nathan Reuvers, who could at least be in the mix for real playing time next season.
Koenig may have had the most ringing endorsement of the team next year, though.
“I mean, obviously Ethan will be back, and Meech [Trice], Khalil, and Aleem Ford,” Koenig said. “He’s going to be good – really good.”
Many don’t know much about Ford, a 6’8″ freshman wing who used a redshirt this season, and also played with Trice at IMG Academy for a year.
Ford needs to keep getting bigger, but with his growth and natural athleticism, look for him to be a major part of the team next season.
In the end, players like Showalter, an unsung hero in the last two seasons, believe in the future of the program.
“Oh yeah, I think they’ll be good,” said Showalter. “With what they’ll be returning, and the recruiting class, which I’ve said a few times all year, is really good, too, they’ll be fine.”