Bulls

Will Frank Kaminsky turn college success into NBA greatness?

frank_kaminsky_badgers_nba_draft_0527.png

Will Frank Kaminsky turn college success into NBA greatness?

Frank Kaminsky was the national player of the year in college basketball, named as such by just about everyone you can think to ask.

But college is over, and now it’s time to see if Kaminsky’s success at the NCAA level can translate to success in the pros.

Being dubbed college hoops’ best player doesn’t have much correlation to NBA greatness. Yes, the last 10 years of honorees have included Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis. They’ve also included Jimmer Fredette and Tyler Hansbrough.

Kaminsky, obviously, will hope to be more like the first two guys named than the last two, and given the amazing transformation he went through during four years at Wisconsin, you shouldn’t count him out.

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Wisconsin C/F Frank Kaminsky]

Most believe that Kaminsky will be able to find NBA success thanks to a phenomenal offensive game that includes a bottomless bag of post-move tricks and an accurate 3-point shot. He shot 54.7 percent last season from the field and 41.6 percent from 3-point range. That’s a seven-footer shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range, to be precise.

“I bring a lot of different things to the table,” Kaminsky told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine. “On the offensive end, I bring a versatile skill set, I can fit in with systems, I can fit in with people. I feel like I’ve got a good personality, and I’m committed to winning. If I’ve shown anything in the last two years in college, it’s that I want to win. I have a winning attitude, and I can bring that to the table.”

His offensive game is impressive, though he might need to move down a position in the NBA because of it. Yeah, he’s seven feet tall, but NBA teams might want to use him as a power forward instead of a center, something Kaminsky mentioned at the combine.

If there’s anything that folks are concerned might not move over to the NBA, it’s his defense. Playing power forward will mean guarding smaller guys. He proved himself as part of a strong defensive Badgers team defending the low post, grabbing a ton of rebounds and ranking highly in the Big Ten in blocked shots, but how will he do when he’s guarding guys away from the basket? Kaminsky knows it’s the part of his game he’ll need to improve the most.

“I think I need to improve on the defensive end,” Kaminsky said. “It’s a whole different evil at the next level. You can get away with some deficiencies in college, but in the NBA you’ll get exposed. So I know I need to get work on my body and get better.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: Myles Turner approaching NBA with 'strictly business' attitude]

There’s plenty, though, that won’t be in question.

Kaminsky’s bringing the same confidence and attitude to the draft process that made him a national celebrity this spring. It was a Final Four run during which the Badgers seemed more like fun-loving rock stars than college kids on a basketball mission, though both of those descriptions applied.

Kaminsky was the star of that show, putting his goofiness on display for the American basketball-watching public with on-air dance moves, humorous magazine photoshoots and an interview with actor Will Ferrell for Access Hollywood.

“Your everyday interesting character,” Wisconsin teammate Sam Dekker described. “He’s quirky, he’s fun-loving and he’s very straight forward. Sometimes people might not like that, but that’s Frank. He’s not afraid of who’s around, he’s just going to be himself, but that’s the thing that makes him great. He doesn’t care who’s watching him, he’s going to be him, he’s going to play his game. … The guy you see on the court’s the guy you see off the court.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Kentucky G Andrew Harrison]

Through all the giggling during press conferences, though, Kaminsky and the Badgers made it very clear that a switch flipped when they took the court, that winning was still the most important thing. And that proved true as they mopped the floor with the Big Ten and won some NCAA tournament games in incredible comeback fashion. Wisconsin took down Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament title game, bested Arizona in an Elite Eight rematch and put a stop to Kentucky’s undefeated season in a memorable Final Four showdown.

And through it all, Kaminsky played exceptionally well. He scored 29 points against Arizona, poured in 20 against Kentucky and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the national title game loss to Duke. He averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during his senior season of college, earning national and conference player of the year honors and becoming a no-doubt first team All American.

So what’s the issue?

“Haters, man. There’s haters,” Dekker said. “When you’re good enough to put yourself in that position with the stuff he did, people are going to try to knock you down and doubt you. But the best players ever are going to go through that stuff. And I see Frank as a really, really good player. He won those awards for a reason. And he’s going to add even more to his game, and I see him doing well regardless of where he goes, he’s going to represent well and have a very long and very good career.”

That’s what Kaminsky is hoping for. He said his expectations were to be picked anywhere from No. 5 to No. 12. It’s a projection that would’ve seemed like lunacy just a few years ago, when he was an unheralded recruit out of Benet Academy who couldn’t find his way onto the court for Bo Ryan’s Badgers. But by the time he was an upperclassman, Kaminsky was leading the Badgers on deep NCAA tournament runs and winning national player of the year awards.

Time will tell how Kaminsky’s NBA career goes, but if the past is any indication, counting him out would seem a bad decision.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

garforman.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

9-20_chandler_hutchison_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.