Happ becomes Badgers' first commit for 2014
JUN 26, 2012 10:40p ET
"Going into the spring, I don't think a college coach knew my name," he said.
College coaches certainly do now.
Happ, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound junior-to-be at Rockridge High School (Ill.), orally committed to play basketball at the University of Wisconsin while on an unofficial visit to campus Tuesday evening. He becomes the Badgers' first commit for the Class of 2014.
Though Happ was not a known commodity a few months ago, he starred on the AAU circuit this spring while playing for both Quad City Elite and the Iowa Barnstormers. Happ also was the beneficiary of a significant growth spurt that isn't over just yet.
He measured just 5-9 at the start of eighth grade, was 6-3 during his freshman season and 6-6 as a sophomore. Happ, who turned 16 last month, tacked on another inch since the end of the season. Because Happ wasn't particularly tall until last season, he grew up playing point guard -- a skill set that makes him unique for a 6-7 high school player.
"He can handle the ball in traffic," Rockridge boys basketball coach Toby Whiteman said. "He has really long arms, and his hands are just monstrous.
"Even toward the end of the year, he was getting a rebound and going coast to coast. Little guards would come up and think, 'I can just rip this from him.' He would go behind his back, make them look stupid, get to the other end and dunk it."
Happ received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin on June 14 while attending an elite basketball camp on campus. He said he chose Wisconsin over scholarship offers from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Green Bay. Happ visited Iowa last week, but the Hawkeyes did not extend a scholarship offer because coach Fran McCaffery had yet to see him play in person.
"Personally, I know I have a long way to go," said Happ when reached by phone Tuesday night. "I really like how the coaching staff at Wisconsin is able to develop their players to the best of their potential."
Happ averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for a Rockridge team that finished 21-7 last season. He said he hoped to improve on his perimeter game over the next two high school seasons, as well as add strength -- a difficult task for him in recent months because of his tremendous growth spurt.
Greg Stephen, co-director of the Iowa Barnstormers, described Happ as a natural fit at Wisconsin under coach Bo Ryan's system because of his versatility as a perimeter oriented big man. He said Happ tried out for the Barnstormers as a freshman and didn't make the team but improved significantly in the span of a year.
"He's a terrific athlete," Stephen said. "He's a guard, but he kind of grew into a little bit bigger body. I think AAU did do quite a bit for him. A year and a half ago, he's not on anybody's radar. Now all of a sudden, he's a kid that should be a top 100 player."
Whiteman said he heard rave reviews about Happ all spring on the AAU circuit from Rockridge assistant coach Logan Wynn, who founded the Quad City Elite. But it wasn't until Whiteman saw Happ in the gym playing pick-up basketball with high school teammates that he realized the strides Happ had made in just a couple of months.
"The improvement in a two-month span is a testament to Ethan and his work ethic," Whiteman said. "The kid is always calling me wanting in the high school gym to shoot on the gun or work on his game. He loves basketball and he wants to be the best player he can be."
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