Ethan Happ has already had two very strong years for the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team. Can he build on his first two seasons to become as good as the player whose spot he filled in the starting lineup — Frank Kaminsky?
To do so, Happ, who is one of the best centers in the Big Ten heading into the 2017-18 season, might need to expand his game outside of the paint.
ESPN's Jeff Goodman is on campus at UW-Madison, and he observed Happ working on that element of his game — the three-pointer.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) 20 юли 2017 г.
Now, Ethan Happ shooting a three-pointer is a rare sight. Traditionally, Wisconsin has recruited big men who can stretch the floor with the outside shot, like Kaminsky, Jon Leuer, Brian Butch, and many, many others. Happ isn't quite there yet.
Here's Happ's stats through his first two seasons:
And here's Frank Kaminsky's progression over his four seasons:
As you can see, the biggest differences between the two players is Happ's early production and Kaminsky's three-point shooting.
Happ started for the Badgers as a freshman the year after Kaminsky was drafted, effectively filling his shoes in the starting lineup. When Kaminsky was a freshman, Jared Berggren was a 10-point, 5-rebound a night forward in the starting lineup, and he improved those numbers in his senior season the following year.
Kaminsky wasn't ready to start yet, and the extra time as a backup helped him develop into the National Player of the Year by his senior season.
Happ, meanwhile, watched that National Player of the Year season as a redshirt player and emerged as a breakout freshman in 2015, scoring 12.4 points per game and grabbing 7.9 rebounds.
The biggest difference in the two players' games? Outside shooting.
Kaminsky shot 37.8 percent from deep as a junior and 41.6 percent as a senior. Happ has shot 674 times in his Badgers career — as best as I can tell from all the research I could do, less than 10 of those attempts came from outside the paint. And none were from three-point range.
Ethan Happ with the jumper.
Yes, you read that correctly: Ethan Happ with the jumper. https://t.co/JdWy0tnfap
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 12, 2017
Now, Happ isn't going to all of a sudden attempt around 100 threes in a season — which is what Kaminsky did in each of his final two seasons. But if Happ can reliably hit a three — or even an outside jumper — when he's wide open in the swing offense, it will put a lot more pressure on opposing defenses.
Right now, teams can sag off of Happ deep into the paint — as you saw in the above video where Happ actually hits an outside shot. If opponents are forced to guard him out on the perimeter, it opens up passing and cutting lanes, and Happ has proven to be a strong passer (he led Wisconsin with 2.8 assists per game last year).
An outside shot for Happ would not only make him a more complete player — like a Frank Kaminsky — it would open up the offense for guys like Khalil Iverson, D'Mitrik Trice and more to go to work.
Ethan Happ will forever be compared to Frank Kaminsky if only because he directly replaced him in the starting lineup (and the constant jabbering from color commentators about how he spent his redshirt year year guarding Kaminsky in practice — we get it. Move on).
While Happ will likely never be the same outside shooter that Kaminsky turned into, he can definitely continue to have the same type of impact Kaminsky did on his teammates. There's no reason to think Happ won't be in the discussion for a National Player of the Year award by the time his senior season rolls around.