Skip to main content

Wisconsin basketball: how the five newest Badgers might fit in next season's rotation

An early look at the five newest members of the men's basketball program and how they might fit into Greg Gard's plans for the 2022-2023 season.

The Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team is back together for summer workouts this week. 

The group returns several key starters and a large number of young players hopefully ready to take the next step in the 2022-2023 season. 

However, one of the most intriguing elements of Greg Gard's squad surrounds the five newcomers that join the team via the 2022 recruiting class and transfer portal.

With the team beginning preparations for a summer trip to France, let's break down each of the five newest Badgers and project how they might fit in next season's playing rotation. 

Kamari McGee

UW-Green Bay transfer Kamari McGee should provide the Badgers with some flexibility as a reserve guard. The 6-foot sophomore will likely be the primary backup to Chucky Hepburn at point guard, and McGee's abilities as an on-ball defender should allow the Badgers to remain consistent on that end of the court when Hepburn needs a breather.  

I don' think it is a stretch to believe that McGee will also see time alongside Hepburn on the court as well, depending on the situation. Greg Gard rarely changes his starting lineup, but he is willing to adapt mid-game based on matchups and the flow of the game. Against quicker, guard-oriented teams, McGee could see his minutes increase as a two-guard. 

Overall, McGee should provide the Badgers some needed energy and scoring production off the bench. I could see him averaging about 15 minutes per game, though his defensive intensity and athletic ability give him a chance to push for more if he proves to be a viable scoring threat. 

Max Klesmit

Wofford transfer Max Klesmit is one of the top contenders to be in the starting lineup next season at shooting guard. The 6-foot-3 shooter averaged just over 14 points per game for the Terriers last season, and the hope is that he can average in the double-digit for the Badgers too. 

Klesmit is not the same player as Brad Davison, but I expect him to serve a similar role in the offense. If he can be a consistent three-point shooter for Wisconsin, it would go a long way in replacing some of the lost production from a year ago.  

I think that Greg Gard will rotate his wing players more frequently with players like Jahcobi Neath, Jordan Davis, Isaac Lindsay, and Connor Essegian also capable of helping the team out as a two-guard at times. Because of that, while I think Klesmit has the inside track to be the starting shooting guard, I do not see him averaging 30 or more minutes a game like we saw a season ago from most of the starting lineup.

For example, Aleem Ford played about 26 minutes per game in the 2020-2021 season, and I could see a similar workload for him given the other players that Gard will likely also want to see the court. I think Jahcobi Neath will be the primary competition for Klesmit for the starting spot, with Jordan Davis potentially starting at the other wing. 

The biggest question for Klesmit will be how quickly he adapts to the uptick in competition, especially on the defensive end. I think he could be a player that gives the team a boost, but the summer trip to France should help shed further light on his exact role next season. 

Connor Essegian

Of the newcomers, true freshman Connor Essegian is arguably the biggest wildcard. The sharpshooter out of Indiana is back healthy after an ankle injury a couple of weeks ago, and I think he could potentially push for playing time as a true freshman. 

As noted with Klesmit, there are several other wings that Wisconsin will have available next season, but if Essegian's scoring acumen at the high school level translates to the Big Ten right away, he could be too good to redshirt. 

Scroll to Continue

Read More

The primary competition for Essegian will be returning walk-on Isaac Lindsay, who saw sporadic playing time late in the year out of necessity. Both are known for their outside shot, so it will be fascinating to see if Essegian can make an immediate impact. 

The biggest question mark for Essegian, like all incoming freshmen at Wisconsin, is defense. If the three-star shooting guard can prove to the staff this summer that he can hold his own on that end of the court, his chances of seeing the court drastically improve. 

If I had to guess right now, I think the Indiana native will earn some minutes next season and not redshirt. Wings like Jahcobi Neath, Jordan Davis, and Max Klesmit should see the bulk of the playing time next season, but in the era of the transfer portal, most players are not looking to redshirt. 

Assuming he does not redshirt, I could see Essegian realistically playing between five to ten minutes per game. I think how he performs in France and practice will go a long way in determining playing time for him though. 

Luke Haertle

Walk-on guard Luke Haertle is likely a redshirt candidate next season. A multi-sport athlete, Haertle plays with the type of toughness that gives him a chance to earn minutes down the road, but I think there are too many other guards ahead of him on the depth chart at this time. 

Chucky Hepburn is going to be on the court a lot, as will whoever starts at the two wing spots next to him. With four scholarship players and walk-on Isaac Lindsay already vying for minutes at his positions, I think it will be hard for him to crack the rotation. 

Overall, Haertle should give Greg Gard and his staff a good practice player next season, and I would not be shocked to see him carve out a role later in his career. 

Ross Candelino

A late addition to the 2022 recruiting class, I see Ross Candelino holding a similar role to Justin Taphorn last year. He is unlikely to earn many minutes, but like Taphorn and fellow incoming walk-on Luke Haertle, Candelino will be a valuable practice player for Wisconsin. 

The Badgers have shown a willingness to turn to walk-ons when they are ready or needed to contribute, Candelino is a player that will have the chance to prove himself over the next couple of years. 

Related links:

You can keep up to date on everything at All Badgers by liking + following our Facebook page and Twitter account:

Facebook - @AllBadgersSI
Twitter - @SI_AllBadgers

You can also follow Site Publisher Matt Belz at @savedbythebelz on Twitter.