Marquette Wire

Marquette-Wisconsin rivalry doesn’t always carry over to recruiting

Sam+Hauser+and+Matt+Heldt+are+the+only+scholarship+players+from+the+state+currently+on+Marquette.
Sam Hauser and Matt Heldt are the only scholarship players from the state currently on Marquette.

Sam Hauser and Matt Heldt are the only scholarship players from the state currently on Marquette.

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Sam Hauser and Matt Heldt are the only scholarship players from the state currently on Marquette.

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On the court, Marquette and Wisconsin’s rivalry has spanned a century, becoming one of the best basketball rivalries in the Midwest. However, there’s one area where the rivalry hasn’t quite translated: recruiting.

“They go head-to-head at times,” said Mark Miller, editor of the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook and a highly-regarded recruiting expert in the state. “But not always.”

Since head coach Steve Wojciechowski took over at Marquette in 2014 and Greg Gard became head coach at Wisconsin in 2015, the recruiting rivalry has been relatively cool.

“If a kid is going to make a decision based on one game, it is a real shallow pond to make a recruiting decision,” Wojo said. “A kid is not going to choose a school because Marquette beat Wisconsin or Wisconsin beats Marquette.”

Wojciechowski has recruited more in-state than predecessor Buzz Williams but still has limited overlap with Wisconsin. Marquette’s two in-state scholarship players on the 2017-’18 roster – Sam Hauser and Matt Heldt – did not receive offers from the Badgers.

“Sometimes different conferences have different needs,” Miller said. “So they aren’t absolutely going after the same players every year.”

Marquette offered Hauser the summer before his junior year and he committed over a year before his first college class. This essentially boxed Wisconsin out before they even had a chance to enter the race.

On the other side of the divide, former Wisconsin standout and Los Angeles Clippers first round draft selection Sam Dekker did not receive an offer from Marquette.

“Sam (Dekker) committed so early that Marquette didn’t really have a chance to recruit him,” Miller said.

Dekker tweeted in September, “In High School (sic) I had interest in Marquette but they told me I wasn’t athletic enough to play in the Big East. Hence my pettiness.” Dekker has since deleted the tweet.

Miller remembers a couple of particularly intense recruiting battles between Marquette and Wisconsin, both involving guards from James Madison Memorial High School. Despite going to school about 15 minutes away from the Kohl Center in the heart of Badger country, Wes Matthews (2005) and Vander Blue (2010) both chose Marquette over Wisconsin.

Blue initially committed to Wisconsin before reopening his commitment and choosing Marquette.

“That one was quite fierce,” Miller said. “There was a story in the State Journal about his grades and whether he was going to have the academic requirements to get into Wisconsin. And that kind of blew everything up. From that point on, Vander re-opened his recruitment and there were some hard feelings there.”

Matthews’ parents were both student-athletes at Wisconsin and his father played nine seasons in the NBA. His recruitment was one of many battles between Crean and former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan.

“The rivalry between Tom Crean and Bo Ryan at that point in time was as intense as it has been at any other time in the history of the Marquette-Wisconsin rivalry,” Miller said. “Tom Crean certainly put in a ton of time recruiting Wesley, and he just felt that was the best fit for him.”

More recently, Wojciechowski and Gard both vigorously pursued class of 2018 power forward Joey Hauser, the younger brother of current Marquette sophomore Sam Hauser. Marquette won the battle, often sending the entire coaching staff to his summer basketball games on the Iowa Barnstormers AAU team.

“That has become a little bit of a trend lately to show to that player, ‘Hey, you’re our guy. We really want you. We have three coaches here watching you. We’re not watching anybody else. You’re the guy we want,” Miller said. “That does send a pretty strong message and I think that strategy paid off for Wojo in landing Joey Hauser.”

Ike Wilson has seen this first hand as the director of Playground Elite, a summer travel basketball program associated with Nike’s EYBL league. Alumni from his program have punched tickets to Kentucky, Gonzaga, UConn, Marquette and Iowa State, among other high majors. Players to remain in-state at either Marquette or Wisconsin include Henry Ellenson, Sandy Cohen, Duane Wilson and Jamil Wilson. To him, it’s simply a matter of which school and system matches the players’ strengths.

“It’s all about what the right fit is for the player,” Wilson said. “(Wojo) and Gard run different systems.”

Wojciechowski and his predecessors are known for more up-tempo offenses, while Gard and Ryan have operated in the swing offense for two decades.

A plethora of in-state talent has also left the state. The top-ranked recruit in Wisconsin per ESPN’s rankings went elsewhere in four of the last six recruiting classes. Key players to go out of state include Diamond Stone (Maryland), J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina), Kevon Looney (UCLA), Phillip Nolan (UConn), Terrence Lewis (Iowa State), Luke Fischer (Indiana) and Tyler Herro (Kentucky) although Fischer transferred to Marquette after a semester.

“There are guys that go elsewhere,” Miller said. “Generally those kind of guys are going to ‘blue blood’ programs … Going to Marquette and Wisconsin isn’t required if you’re a top-level player.”

Even though Wojciechowski and Gard have not been heated rivals on the recruiting trail, Wojo has still seen the rivalry positively impact recruiting.

“It’s a great rivalry,” Wojo said. “You have two tradition-rich programs, two programs that do it the right way, so yeah, kids want to be a part of games like this. In that respect to have this game on the schedule every year is a real positive.”

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