Over the past few weeks, Wisconsin basketball scouts have been hot on the recruiting trail all across the country. Now with the July evaluation period coming to a close, many recruits are on the Badgers’ radar.
Some prospects added further interest from Wisconsin, while others made a name for themselves and are now top targets for next year.
Currently, the recruits that are drawing the most attention from Wisconsin are Amir Coffey, JaQuori McLaughlin, Willie Jackson and Nick Rakocevic. In this article, all four high profile prospects will be analyzed to see how/where they will fit within the program.
Quick Stats: 6’7″, 180 lbs, 4 Stars (ESPN)
Pros: Versatile Scorer, Height at Position, Driving Ability, Mechanics, Court Vision
Cons: Durability, Strength, Defensive Awareness
Landing Amir Coffey would be an incredible start to the Badgers’ 2016 recruiting class. Coffey ranks #35 on the ESPN100 list and is one of the best players in the country at his position. His size at the shooting guard gives him a tremendous advantage. Plus, Coffey’s solid fundamentals raises his collegiate potential. Able to score off the drive, pull-up jumper, or set shot, Coffey is incredibly versatile offensively. He also possesses excellent court vision, and has the ability find the open man. If Coffey can develop his ball handling in the future, he could play either the one or the two position depending on what his team needs. Furthermore, it would add a whole other dimension to his game.
Now, the biggest issue for Amir Coffey is the question of his durability. For two consecutive years, Coffey did not partake in any July tournaments due to injuries. After rehabbing a broken leg during the 2014 summer, he tore his ACL only three games into the 2014-15 season. Even with multiple reports of a rapid and smooth recovery, Coffey’s health will always be in question. Along with durability, he must improve his defense. From time to time, Coffey loses his man or the ball, due to poor positioning and awareness. Despite all the questions, Coffey has already demonstrated the ability to bounce back from injuries. Prior to tearing his ACL, Coffey averaged 30.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game last season. Even more surprising, he put up these numbers after recovering from a broken leg that summer before.
Coffey would be an excellent fit within the Badgers’ system, as he provides multiple scoring options. If Bronson Koenig stays for his senior year, a backcourt duo of Coffey and Koenig would be quite formidable. Coffey, with his threat to drive, would give Koenig more room to operate and room to shoot the three. Plus, the strong backcourt would stretch the defense, thus giving the big men space to work.
Quick Stats: 6’3″, 160 lbs, 4 Stars (ESPN)
Pros: 3 Point Shot, Driving Ability, Pull-up Jumper, Basketball IQ, Hesitation Dribble, Footwork
Cons: Finishing With Contact, Strength
Following his decommitment from Washington, JaQuori McLaughlin has returned to the recruiting board for Wisconsin. With his strong driving ability and excellent shooting, McLaughlin is nearly the completely package when it comes to explosive point guards. What separates JaQuori from most other point guards is his ability to knock down the three ball. McLaughlin possesses the dual threat of the drive, with his defense freezing hesitation dribble, and the shot, which he can hit from almost anywhere on the floor. He is Furthermore McLaughlin has an high basketball IQ, and solid footwork, which boosts his potential even higher.
The only issues that plague JaQuori McLaughlin happen to be his strength and ability to finish through heavy contact. However, these problems go hand in hand. If he can put on muscle over the coming year, McLaughlin’s issue of finishing with contact should go away, as he will be able to overpower his defenders.
McLaughlin would be another excellent fit for the Badgers, especially with his three point shot. If teamed with Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin would have a dynamic guard combo. Even if Koenig choses to turn pro beforehand, JaQuori could be the centerpiece of Wisconsin Basketball in the coming years.
Quick Stats: 6’6″, 185 lbs, 3 Stars (ESPN)
Pros: Athleticism, Low Post Offense, Footwork, Defensive Presence, Strength
Cons: Ball Handling, 3 Point Shot
One look at Willie Jackson and anyone can see that he is without a doubt the most explosive player the Badgers could land from the 2016 recruiting class. Unlike the previous two recruits, Jackson has no problem finishing at the rim with his gravity defying hops and emphatic dunks. At 6’6″, he may be a bit undersized for a Small Forward at times, however more than makes up for it with his leaping ability and athleticism. Furthermore, Jackson has excellent footwork in the low post. He know how to always put his body between the defender and the ball. On the other end of the court, Jackson brings a strong defensive presence with his shot blocking ability, and strength.
With Willie Jackson being a Small Forward, he will be forced to handle the ball sometimes at the next level. This is the biggest aspect of Jackson’s game he must improve. While his handles are decent, just decent will not faire well in D1 ball. Also, Jackson must extend his current shooting range beyond the three point line. Currently, anywhere beyond a midrange shoot tends to be a little shaky for Jackson. But, if he can improve his ball handling skills and shooting skills, Jackson would add incredible depth to his game. The combination of athleticism, shooting, and ball handling could make Willie Jackson quite a formidable opponent.
Jackson seems to be a more athletic version of freshman Sam Dekker. They both play the Small Forward, possess strong leaping abilities, and have a decent outside shot. Since Nigel Hayes will most likely turn pro following this season, Jackson would be an excellent candidate to fill the hole that will be left in the Badgers’ roster. Furthermore, Jackson could help create a front court to build up over the coming years. A combination of Jackson, Ethan Happ, and Alex Illikainen, while it doesn’t seem so intimidating now, it could develop into a potential powerhouse over the next few years.
Quick Stats: 6’11”, 210 lbs, 4 Stars (ESPN)
Pros: 3 Point Shot, Rebounding, Agility
Cons: Strength, Low Post Moves, Finishing With Contact
Nick Rakocevic is a recruit who does not appear to be receiving too much hype, despite his excellent skills. Rakocevic is a rare center who possesses a solid jumper with range. With his shooting ability, he is a threat to score from both inside and outside. Rakocevic also is an excellent rebounder. His size and ability to position himself between his opponent, allowing him to be a dominant defensive rebounder. Lastly, Nick Rakocevic is quite agile, even at 6’11”. He rotates fluidly on defense, which gives him the ability to be a shot blocker as well.
What holds Rakocevic back is his lack of strength, and post moves. At 240 pounds, he can often be out muscled at the center position. Furthermore, he struggles to finish through heavy contact due to his lack of strength. Thankfully, Rakocevic has an entire year to improve his strength. Another issue with Rakocevic’s game is his lack of offense in the post. Primarily at the center, Rakocevic must develop a low post offense. Otherwise, he could end up struggling to score at the college level.
Nick Rakocevic has the potential to develop into a young Frank Kaminsky. Whether or not he reaches that level, all depends on his work ethic. Still with a strong three point shot, he would fit quite well in the Wisconsin system. He would also team well with freshman big man Andy Van Vilet. The two would provide an excellent defensive presence in the paint. They also could play a two man game on offense. Also with his outside shot, Rakocevic would stretch the inside defense, creating room for the guards to drive.
Since all of these recruits are in the class of 2016, nothing is set in stone yet. However, it is always exciting to see the possibilities of what could be. Hopefully, the recruiting team at Wisconsin will be able to draw at least one of these high profile recruits. Sadly, we will just have to wait and see.
– T. Simmons