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updated: 4/2/2014 10:24 PM

Big names like Kaminsky keep leaving Illinois

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  • Wisconsin 's Frank Kaminsky reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half in a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Arizona on March 29 in Anaheim, Calif.

      Wisconsin 's Frank Kaminsky reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half in a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Arizona on March 29 in Anaheim, Calif.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky answers questions from members of the media during a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament on March 28 in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin plays Arizona in a regional final on Saturday.

      Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky answers questions from members of the media during a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament on March 28 in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin plays Arizona in a regional final on Saturday.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky shoots past Arizona's Kaleb Tarczewski (35) during the first half in a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game March 29 in Anaheim, Calif.

      Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky shoots past Arizona's Kaleb Tarczewski (35) during the first half in a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game March 29 in Anaheim, Calif.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin's Ben Brust listens to a question during a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament on March 28 in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin plays Arizona in a regional final on Saturday.

      Wisconsin's Ben Brust listens to a question during a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament on March 28 in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin plays Arizona in a regional final on Saturday.
    Associated Press

  • Wisconsin's Ben Brust tosses the ball during practice for the NCAA men's college basketball tournament March 26 in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin plays Baylor in a regional semifinal on Thursday.

      Wisconsin's Ben Brust tosses the ball during practice for the NCAA men's college basketball tournament March 26 in Anaheim, Calif. Wisconsin plays Baylor in a regional semifinal on Thursday.
    Associated Press

 
 

Look up if you want to know what's wrong with the state of college basketball in this state.

Look up to the heights of this weekend's Final Four. Look up to Illinois' neighbors to the north. Look up nearly 7 feet.

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All those elevations are where Frank Kaminsky -- an alumnus of Benet Academy in Lisle -- spends his time these days.

"Big Frank," as Digger Phelps referred to him on the radio Wednesday, is on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

An unlikely star was born in the NCAA Tournament last weekend. Actually, Kaminsky wasn't born a star. He worked hard to become one.

Kaminsky has been doing in the postseason what he was doing during the regular season: shooting, jumping and running the court for the University of Wisconsin.

Not for Illinois. Not for DePaul. Not for Northwestern. Not for any of our state's other schools.

For Wisconsin.

Ouch!

No wonder our allegedly big-time college programs didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

And why Wisconsin will play Kentucky in the Final Four on Saturday.

Local schools are criticized for not keeping Chicago's best talent home to play college ball.

The likes of Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and Jon Scheyer chose either a bigger-name program or bigger-name coach. This school year Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Tyler Ulis were added to the list.

Those players had to leap at the opportunity to further their hoop dreams at Duke, Kansas and Kentucky under coaches such as Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self and John Calipari,

That's what John Groce at Illinois, Chris Collins at Northwestern and Oliver Purnell at DePaul are up against.

They wind up trying to win with all-state players while being big-timed for the services of McDonald's All-Americans.

The only way to overcome the disadvantage is to be smarter the way Bo Ryan is proving to be at Wisconsin.

How does a school like Wisconsin outsmart Duke, Kansas and maybe even Kentucky this weekend? Its coach finds a good high school player and develops him into an outstanding college player.

Kaminsky wasn't overwhelmed with college offers coming out of Benet. Too few noticed that this was a tall player who could shoot college-distance 3-pointers, post up underneath and handle the ball like the former prep point guard that he was.

In other words, Kaminsky was a unique high school player with the potential to become a unique college player.

So why is Kaminsky doing his thing -- actually his things -- on that side of the border rather than this side?

Forget Northwestern and DePaul for a moment. Illinois is the appropriate comparison as another large state school.

Apparently the Illini either didn't recognize Kaminsky's possibilities or then-coach Bruce Weber recognized them too late to lure him away from Wisconsin.

Illinois instead wound up with Nnanna Egwu, a good player but one who for whatever reason hasn't become what Frank Kaminsky has become.

For the Illini program to grow, Groce is going to have to recognize that there are underrated treasures with big upsides throughout the state -- in the suburbs and downstate as well as in Chicago.

There are some big guys like Kaminsky. There are point guards like Fred VanVleet, who went from Rockford Auburn to Wichita State. There are all sorts of different types of difference makers who can help build a program.

Bo knows. Ryan and his staff have been able to correctly evaluate players such as Kaminsky and Mundelein's Ben Brust, develop them into Big Ten starters, fit them into a defined system and reach the Final Four with them.

Until coaches at Illinois and other major programs within the state can follow that path, the state of basketball in this state won't be all it should be.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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