Dienhart: Frank Kaminsky, in his prep coach's words
It has been fun for fans to watch Frank Kaminsky emerge this year and during Wisconsin’s run to the Final Four. But there’s one guy who isn’t shocked by all of this: Gene Heidkamp, Kaminsky’s high school coach at Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill.
Heidkamp was the one who molded Kaminsky, honing those passing skills, shooting touch and low-post moves at the prep level. Bo Ryan and his staff at Wisconsin have taken the 7-0 Kaminsky to another level.
But Heidkamp will be the first to tell you that it’s not like Kaminsky has come out of nowhere. Yes, the junior was a three-star recruit, but Kaminsky was a heck of a talent at Benet Academy, which is in the Chicago area.
Q: Are you surprised by Kaminsky’s development?
A: I saw a lot of what I am seeing now back when he was here. I would classify him as a complete basketball player. His skill set is kinda unique for someone his size. Coming up, he was always skilled. Those skills have gotten better as he has gotten bigger and stronger and more experienced. He always could shoot and handle the ball. And he’s a very good passer. His post game has developed more and more. His rise is well-documented.
But I don’t think people are taking into account how good of a player he was for us back in high school. He was part of a strong 2011 Class in Illinois with Anthony Davis (Kentucky; New Orleans Pelicans), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Chasson Randle (Stanf0rd), Wayne Blackshear (Louisville).
Q: Any funny stories about him?
A: He’s a pretty happy-go-lucky person. We are pretty close. On the court, he was all business. Off the court, he’s a fun-loving kid. He has a great personality. He can be a bit of a jokester at times. He was home this year in January for a day and he stopped into my class. He’s just Frank. I don’t know how to explain it. He has that personality about him. He’s a lot of fun.
Q: Does any game or moment stand out for you?
A: He was good as a junior. But his stats didn’t jump off the charts. But in the playoffs, we were losing by 10 and he scored 39. And I don’t think he had scored more than 10 in a game before that during the season. He had a huge second half. That 39-point outing led to bigger and better things. He played really well down the stretch. His jump between his sophomore and junior seasons in college is similar to the one he made between his junior and senior season here. By the time he was a senior, he clearly was one of the best players in our state.
Q: Did you think he was a Big Ten player?
A: I always did. But I’m biased. We had Dave Sobolewski, too, who is at Northwestern. Frank was a bit of a late-bloomer and early commit, if you know what I mean. He took off in the spring of his junior year. He then played well in the AAU circuit. Wisconsin was the first high-major to offer him. He knew he wanted to go there, so he committed. So, he was only on the market for a matter of weeks. If he had played through the summer and played through the July evaluation period—he committed in early June—he would have had a lot of interest. It’s not like he came out of nowhere. I don’t want to diminish the story. But he was a heck of a player for us.
His senior year, we were 29-0 and the No. 6 team in the country. We had beaten Simeon when Jabari (Parker) was a sophomore. Then we were No. 1 in the state and got upset by East Aurora and Ryan Boatright, ironically, in the sectionals. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin and UConn meet in the title game.
Q: Since Kaminsky was an early commit to Wisconsin, did any other schools try to flip him?
A: Nobody. But he did cancel some visits. He knew what he wanted. He liked their system at Wisconsin. His versatility fits their system. He’s skilled with the ball, on the blocks. He knew that style would fit his game. He is mature for his age. Look at the big guys Bo Ryan has developed, guys like Jon Leuer and Brian Butch. A lot of players similar to Frank have gone through Wisconsin. He knew that. Wisconsin was the first high-major to the party. It is surreal how things are taking off for him. He always has been a good player. But he has grown, gotten stronger, is coachable. That all has paid off for him.
His passing isn’t noticed as much. He complements their shooters. He can pass out of a double-team. He has a super-high IQ. Very instinctive. In the Arizona game, he found a way to be effective with the big guy on him. He took him outside and hit some shots or put the ball on the floor. Frank knows where he can be effective. He’s pretty smart.
Q: Are you going to the Final Four?
A: I really wanna be there. We talked yesterday. I am doing what I can to get down there. This probably is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We text and talk. I’m close to our former players. We talk often. We were in the state championship game last week for the first time in school history. Frank reached out consistently to wish us luck. We lost to Whitney Young by two. It has been a special time for our school and Frank. It has been an exciting time for our program. This is one of those years you probably have once in your career.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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