Wisconsin "the Best Fit" for Walk-On Justin Taphorn

Jake Kocorowski

Another Taphorn is off to play college basketball.

Amidst uncertain and unprecedented times during his recruiting journey, a developing relationship with Wisconsin and Justin Taphorn quickly blossomed into a preferred walk-on opportunity to join the program. 

Late last month, he accepted that very offer.

"I was pretty fortunate, Taphorn told AllBadgers.com last week. "The (COVID-19) pandemic kind of pushed everything away, and I kind of started thinking of recruitment a little bit more and I took advantage of the time and I just reached out to a couple coaches. Coach (Greg) Gard, I kind of caught his eye and sent him my resume and highlight video and he liked it and went back and forth. 

"This was probably a month ago, I'd say, and it went pretty fast after that.”

According to Taphorn, who noted that Gard was his primary contact in his discussions with UW, a later conversation on the phone led to the preferred walk-on opportunity.

On June 26, the Pekin, Ill., native publicly announced he accepted that spot in the Wisconsin men's basketball program.

“It was pretty much a last-minute thing. I had already had a preferred walk-on (offer) with Bradley University, the local college here," Taphorn said. "The coaches were really, really nice and it pretty much just came down to what kind of experience I wanted. I've been around Wisconsin, my brother played against them and I've been to the campus a little bit, and atmosphere. That's something that I've always wanted, and so I thought that Wisconsin was best fit for me. I'm pretty excited for these next four years with the team.

“So right after my family and I decided that Wisconsin was right, I called Coach Gard and let him know. He seemed pretty excited.”

According to Taphorn, the eventual walk-on offers from Bradley and Wisconsin became his top two choices. The Illinois native acknowledged he also received some interest from Division III programs that he entertained before those two D-I opportunities came forth. The Journal Star reported the Bradley and Division III interest previously, and BadgerBlitz.com also noted the walk-on offer from Brian Wardle's program in a conversation with the prep standout in June.

Taphorn assumes that he will play either shooting guard or small forward, though in high school, he was asked to guard opponents' big men as he was the team's tallest player his senior year.

Multiple reports, including one from The Journal Star in 2017, have also previously discussed how basketball, and collegiate sports for that manner, have run through the family's blood. Taphorn mentioned to AllBadgers.com about how his uncle, Matt, played at Illinois State. His father, Pat, did so for Dick Bennett at UW-Green Bay alongside current Virginia men's basketball coach Tony Bennett.

Taphorn's older brother, Nathan, played four seasons in the Big Ten at Northwestern between 2013-17 and competed in 109 games, according to the university. Justin's twin sister, Jenna, is off to play volleyball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

So what was Nathan's reaction to his younger brother deciding to play for a fellow Big Ten rival?

“Honestly, you'd be surprised," Justin Taphorn said. "He had nothing bad to say about Wisconsin. He loved it. He was recruited by Wisconsin, too, and I remember that campus visit, meeting (former UW head coach) Bo Ryan. It was pretty cool going to see a game.”

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