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THE CASE FOR Tanking

April 07, 2014
April 07, 2014

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April 7, 2014

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THE CASE FOR Tanking

Frank Kaminsky has his own way of doing things—and that's just fine with Wisconsin

FRANK (THE TANK) KAMINSKY has a habit of stuffing a towel in his mouth and muttering expletives under his breath during timeouts. He claims it helps him focus. After Wisconsin's 64--63 overtime defeat of top-seeded Arizona in Anaheim last Saturday, the 7-foot junior didn't remember anything he had said—he was too busy running around screaming.

This is an article from the April 7, 2014 issue Original Layout

With a 28-point, 11-rebound performance in the final, Kaminsky was named Most Outstanding Player in the West Regional. That sort of stardom is something his father always expected—Frank Sr. just wasn't sure how long it would take. The Tank honed his fundamentals while scrimmaging with the women's team his father coached at NAIA Saint Francis in Joliet, Ill. As a freshman at Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill., Frank Jr. was 6'2" and played mostly facing the basket, which gave him a chance to see the floor and learn how an offense flows. By the time he was a 6'9" senior, he had a better understanding of what many big men fail to grasp: When you catch the ball in the paint, you have more time than you think to make a move. "Now he's like a 7-foot guard who never gets rattled," says Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard.

The Wildcats ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency, but Kaminsky buried 3 of 5 from three-point range against 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski to stretch the D, then used his length and craftiness in the post to drop in layups on 6'9" Aaron Gordon. Arizona coach Sean Miller said that he would have game-planned for the Badgers the same way—right after acknowledging that they're heading to the Final Four because of a self-described spaz who averaged just 4.2 points in 10.3 minutes last season.

Along with growing into his body, Kaminsky has become more comfortable in the spotlight. When asked how Arizona's players would describe Wisconsin's, his teammates gave answers like "tough" and "resilient." Kaminsky deadpanned, "White guys." Yes, Kaminsky looks like the stereotypical Badger. But his game is now more NBA draft prospect than awkward 20-year-old. "He's a goof who had to find his way," says Kaminsky Sr. That path now includes a stop in North Texas.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDBIG CHEESE Kaminsky developed his arsenal of moves before he sprouted to 7 feet.