Badgers men’s basketball: Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ named first team All-Big Ten
It was frustrating at the time, but going against Frank Kaminsky on a daily basis paid dividends for Ethan Happ while he was redshirting during his first season with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program.
Two years later, Happ is an All-Big Ten first-team selection. That honor was announced Monday when the conference revealed its 2016-17 awards.
Happ was also named to the Big Ten All-Defensive team for the second consecutive season. This time, he was joined by UW senior guard Zak Showalter.
Badgers senior point guard Bronson Koenig was named to the coaches’ All-Big Ten second team.
Purdue sophomore Caleb Swanigan won Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Swanigan and Happ were joined on the first team by Maryland junior guard Melo Trimble, Minnesota junior guard Nate Mason and Iowa senior swingman Peter Jok.
In Big Ten play, Happ led the Badgers in scoring (14.6), rebounding (8.6), assists (3.0), steals (2.3) and blocks (1.6). The only other UW sophomore to earn first-team honors was Michael Finley in 1992-93.
Happ also was named a third-team All-American by USA Today on Monday.
Not bad for a player who felt out of place two seasons ago while playing on the scout team. His job each day was to try to make life as difficult as possible for Kaminsky, who went on to win the Naismith Award, Wooden Award and Oscar Robertson Trophy while helping UW reach the NCAA tournament title game.
“I don’t think you can get any better testing ground than going against the national player of the year every day in practice,” UW coach Greg Gard said of Happ, who followed up his redshirt season by earning Big Ten All-Freshman honors last season. “That in itself was very humbling for Ethan. It tested his pride a little bit. You’re coming from a high school situation where you’re the best from your area to coming to a position where you’re having to defend college basketball’s best player every day.
“It taught Ethan a lot. And I’m sure it was frustrating at times. But Frank did a good job of putting him under his wing. … Frank didn’t take it easy on Ethan. He went at him every day, he didn’t let up. I think that was probably the best thing for Ethan was that Frank was relentless on him and didn’t let up.
“I think that whole journey has helped Ethan grow into what he is today.”
Happ, whose 2.3 steals per game in Big Ten play led the conference, was a candidate for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. But that award went to Minnesota junior center Reggie Lynch, who led the Big Ten with 3.7 blocked shots per game in conference play.
This is the eighth consecutive season the Badgers have placed at least one player on the All-Defensive team, but the only UW player to win Defensive Player of the Year honors was Mike Kelley in 1998-99.
Happ and Showalter became the first UW teammates to make the All-Defensive team since Michael Flowers and Joe Krabbenhoft did it in 2007-08. Joining Happ and Showalter on the 2016-17 team were Lynch, Northwestern sophomore forward Vic Law and Purdue junior guard Dakota Mathias.
Koenig, who leads the Badgers in scoring with 14.2 points per game, was joined on the coaches’ second team by Michigan State freshman forward Miles Bridges, Michigan senior guard Derrick Walton Jr., Northwestern junior guard Bryant McIntosh and Illinois senior swingman Malcolm Hill. The media’s second team consisted of Bridges, Walton, McIntosh, Hill and Nebraska senior guard Tai Webster.
UW senior forward Nigel Hayes, the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, earned third-team honors by both the coaches and media after averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds. Koenig was on the media’s third team.
Badgers senior forward Vitto Brown earned a Big Ten sportsmanship award for the second consecutive season.
Bridges was named Freshman of the Year. He was joined on the All-Freshman Team by Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, Penn State guard Tony Carr, Minnesota swingman Amir Coffey and Iowa forward Tyler Cook.
Minnesota’s Richard Pitino was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Pitino helped engineer an amazing turnaround for the Gophers, who are 23-8 after finishing 8-23 last season.
UW at No. 24
The Badgers fell two spots to No. 24 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll.
UW (23-8, 12-6 Big Ten) closed its regular season with a 66-49 victory over Minnesota on Sunday at the Kohl Center, ending the Golden Gophers’ eight-game winning streak. That win came on the heels of a stretch that included five losses in six games for UW, including a 59-57 home loss to Iowa on Thursday.
Big Ten champion Purdue is at No. 13, while Maryland entered the poll at No. 25.
Kansas remained in the No. 1 spot, followed by Villanova, UCLA, Gonzaga and Oregon.
The Badgers open Big Ten tournament play on Friday with a quarterfinal game against either Iowa or Indiana at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.