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, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: INMG132
Updated: July 7, 2014 10:47PM
MADISON, Wis. — Three months later, there’s a part of Wisconsin 7-footer Frank Kaminsky that still burns over the Badgers’ 74-73 loss to Kentucky in the Final Four.
“I still believe we were the better team in that game,” Kaminsky said. “It just didn’t turn out in our favor. It’s frustrating, but we know we can do better.”
For a lot of Final Four teams, there’s nowhere to go but down. Up in Wisconsin, next season can’t get here soon enough.
There’s zero question whom the favorites to win the Big Ten title will be. There’s little chance more than one or two teams will be ranked higher than the Badgers in the preseason national polls. The early take on Wisconsin will be summed up in five words: Bo Ryan’s best team ever.
Well, those five words plus three others: “Frank the Tank!”
Kaminsky hears that shouted, always in celebratory fashion, nearly everywhere he goes these days. While the other programs that made it to Arlington, Texas, last April are dealing with overhauled rosters, the Badgers are fine-tuning a lineup that will return to the court almost intact.
Their biggest star is Kaminsky, the former all-state player at Benet Academy who blew up as a college junior.
Madison in the summertime is a lovely place to be even when you don’t have one of the most recognizable faces — and definitely the coolest nickname — in town.
“The funniest thing about it all is every person says, ‘Oh, my brother, my friend, is a huge fan. Let me take a picture and send it to them.’ Like it’s for somebody else,” Kaminsky said. “Just ask me for the picture. I’ll take it.”
Not that the offseason has been a nonstop party for the Big Ten’s highest-profile hooper. Kaminsky, a 21-year-old communications major, is interning for Merrill Lynch in Madison. He deleted the Twitter app from his phone, replacing it with LinkedIn.
“Right away,” he said, “I made, like, 200 new connections with some pretty prominent Madison-area business people.”
He also attended to the vital business of exploring his NBA draft potential in 2014. Kaminsky’s father, Frank, insists his son would have been a first-round selection. Young Frank isn’t as certain and admits the possibility of going in the second round “kind of freaked me out.”
But even had the feedback from NBA people been off-the-charts encouraging, Kaminsky doubts he could’ve pulled the trigger and turned pro early.
“Subconsciously, I always knew I was coming back,” he said. “I don’t think I could leave this place knowing I have one more year left. This is such a fun place, and my coaches have given me such an opportunity to come here and make something of myself. So it’s one more year, and they deserve that.”
His father, who starred at St. Rita and Lewis University, calls it Kaminsky’s “South Side Chicago sense of loyalty.”
Understandably, Ryan gives the decision a serious thumbs-up.
“Frank’s pretty level-headed,” the coach said. “He’s the kind of guy who sees the big picture. He’s grounded. And he’s got a lot more he wants to do.”
In addition to posting up and shooting threes, Ryan said, Kaminsky will be more adept at attacking the basket off the dribble as a senior. For a player who barely played 10 minutes per game as a sophomore before leading the Badgers in scoring as a junior, it would be the logical next step in his improvement.
“His confidence is allowing him to do all of this,” Ryan said. “He’s a much more confident guy than he was his first two years.”
How much so? Enough that he can look at a Final Four run and decide it wasn’t good enough.
“I can’t wait for next season,” Kaminsky said. “Everything that we work toward should be for a national championship. Next year should be the type of year where we roll the ball out and we know who’s going to win. We just want to see by how much.”