Benet Academy product Frank Kaminsky raising his pro profile
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter January 14, 2014 10:17PM
Noah Vonleh, Frank Kaminsky, Austin Etherington, Nigel Hayes
Updated: January 14, 2014 11:23PM
Frank Kaminsky’s dad claims he can beat his son one-on-one.
Sure, Frank Sr. played professionally overseas after a career at Lewis University, a basketball pedigree that helped the younger Kaminsky get recruited by Wisconsin.
But he’s some 30 years older than his son. More notably, Kaminsky, a 7-foot junior, has emerged as an NBA prospect.
So chances are that games in the Kaminsky driveway are tilting more toward the younger generation.
“I’m sure everyone would say that at this high a level that their goal is the NBA, but I’ve got a lot of things to accomplish while I’m in college,” Kaminsky said. “[Playing in the NBA has] been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.”
Kaminsky wasn’t necessarily a can’t-miss high school prospect, though his size and rebounding always were noticeable.
Kaminsky played for the Illinois Wolves, a well-known AAU program with several alumni in the Big Ten. He played behind Illini 6-11 junior center Nnanna Egwu.
Howard Moore, who in five seasons as an assistant with the Badgers earned a reputation as one of the most influential recruiters of Chicago-area talent, was among the first to notice Kaminsky.
Moore, in his fourth season as coach at UIC, said Kaminsky’s versatility convinced him that he would be a solid Big Ten player.
Kaminsky played point guard at times during his high school career at Benet Academy. When former teammate Dave Sobolewski, now a junior starter for Northwestern, was hurt, Kaminsky ran the offense.
Moore said the fit in Bo Ryan’s system was undeniable.
“This awkward, goofy-looking kid who was about as big as Nnanna couldn’t get off the bench for the Wolves,” Moore said. “Once I got him on campus, I knew it was going to be tough for someone to beat us [in recruiting].”
Said Kaminsky: “Wisconsin was really the first one that looked at me, and right when I [got] offered, I knew I wanted to come here. So I didn’t really see any point in waiting around for anything else.”
During his freshman and sophomore years, Kaminsky played sparingly, averaging 7.7 and 10.3 minutes per game, respectively.
But this season, Kaminsky has vaulted into contention for all-conference honors. He scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in Wisconsin’s 75-72 loss to Indiana on Tuesday, the Badgers’ first defeat of the season. But he gained national acclaim Nov. 19, when he scored 43 points against North Dakota, setting the Badgers’ record for points in a game.
“I was extremely proud of what he did and it’s a great accomplishment, but they won the game and that was the important thing,” Frank Sr. said. “I called him the next day and said, ‘You know what? It’s over.’ ”
Though the game is long over, its effects are still evident.
Moore compared Kaminsky to Kurt Portmann, a similarly skilled big man who played at Wisconsin in the 1980s. Unfortunately for Portmann, the inside-out game he and Kaminsky have in common was viewed as soft. With basketball trending toward big men who can stretch the floor, that style is appealing.
And that kind of player is always the toughest to beat in a game of one-on-one. It’s hard for Kaminsky’s dad to admit it, but press him, and the truth squeezes out.
“I’ve always challenged him,” Frank Sr. said. “I’m afraid to say that if we played now, he’d probably get me. He wouldn’t get me easy, but he’d probably get me.”