My Two Cents: Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky Player of Decade, and Indiana Fans Can be Good With That
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Because there were no Indiana players on the first team of the Big Ten's All-Decade team that was rolled out this week, it was pretty obvious that the Player of the Decade was going to be some other guy.
And it was. Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky got the honor on Friday.
I'm good with that, and you should be, too. Because Hoosier Nation owes him one.
Kaminsky was a dominant big man for Wisconsin from 2011 to 2015, and after Wisconsin lost to Kentucky in the 2014 Final Four, he vowed to come back and make amends.
He did, leading the Badgers to an upset of 38-0 Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four, helping to preserve the unbeaten streak of the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. That streak is up to 44 years now, and it's something all Indiana fans embrace — and hold on to very hard.
Indiana fans, especially those in the southern part of the state, love to joke that their two favorite teams are the Hoosiers and whoever is playing Kentucky. That border war hatred runs deep.
And on that night, April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, there were a whole lot of Indiana fans rooting hard for Wisconsin against Kentucky, a team that was loaded with talent and was a legitimate threat to the '76 Hoosiers.
Kaminsky and his Wisconsin teammates beat Kentucky 71-64 victory in a national semifinal. Wisconsin slayed the dragon that few considered conquerable. Kaminsky led the Badgers with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and it was a great 22nd birthday present.
Kaminsky wrote a 1,219-word essay called “My Decision to Stay.” In it, he wrote about how much it hurt losing to Kentucky in last year’s Final Four. “Yea, we made it to the final four,” wrote Kaminsky, “but that doesn’t mean we won something.”
I was just a fan that year — I was working a non-sports newspaper job at the time — and I rooted damn hard for Wisconsin that night. I enjoyed their win over Kentucky as much as I had enjoyed any Indiana victory in a long time.
They were a fun team to watch, but it had more to do with keeping that Indiana unbeaten streak alive. Wisconsin lost to Duke in the national championship game, so Kaminsky and the Badgers didn't their national title, but they got the job done for Indiana fans, and I suppose that was good enough.
Kaminsky became Wisconsin's first National Player of the Year in 2015, where he claimed the Wooden Award and the Naismith and Oscar Robertson trophies.
During his senior year, Kaminsky led Wisconsin in eight different categories on way to first-team all-conference and Big Ten Player of the Year honors. He was first in scoring (18.8 points per game), rebounding (8.2), assists (2.6), and both field-goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage (.547 and .416).
“You just think about all the great players that have played in the Big Ten conference over the last decade and to be named the best one, that’s pretty special,” Kaminsky said in an interview with Mike Hall of the Big Ten Network.