Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky had just completed his required 30-minute press conference Sunday when the subject turned to something that truly interested him.
“Dude, I’ve got all offseason to work on my FIFA rankings,” Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky is serious about the FIFA 2015 video game and his rivalry with teammate Jordan Smith, college kids doing stuff.
The thing is, Kaminsky, a senior, has had plenty of college time to develop his interests.
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His Wisconsin career that has improved each season ends with Monday’s national championship game against Duke.
Kaminsky will be the focal point in a matchup against Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor, the two leading candidates for national player of the year honors, with Kaminsky winning those that have been announced.
None of this would be happening had Kaminsky not passed up the NBA Draft last year, putting him at odds with today’s trend of leaving college as an underclassman.
“This last year in college has been worth more than any dollar amount,” Kaminsky said. “It’s been everything I’ve wanted.”
Well, almost everything. A victory over the Blue Devils would cap things nicely. But even if that doesn’t occur, Kaminsky has appreciated a four-year career as much as anybody could.
“I came in as an immature person,” Kaminsky said. “I had a completely different mind-set. I think everyone in our program would agree with me when I said I’ve grown up more than anybody else.
“I’ve been able to set goals and accomplishment them, and that’s one of the most satisfying feelings you can have.”
Kaminsky is the opposite of one-and-done. A brief college career was never going to happen, but even he wasn’t happy with his basketball status coming out of high school in Lisle, Ill., and early on at Wisconsin, the only major school that recruited him.
The son of a former college basketball player and a volleyball player was driven by a desire to always want more, starting in high school.
“I always wanted to be the best,” Kaminsky said. “I saw people around me, they were having success, winning championships and getting awards. I wanted that for myself.”
That meant he had to work harder and get stronger. In his first two years at Wisconsin, Kaminsky averaged about three points.
As a junior, he broke out and became a force, a 7-footer who could get to the basket and knock down a three-pointer. Kaminsky led the Badgers to the Final Four and became the player coach Bo Ryan thought he could be.
“Frank took advantage of every learning opportunity that he had and just kept making himself better,” Ryan said.
He turned himself into perhaps the nation’s best player this season. Kaminsky averages 18.7 points, and after his 20-point, 11-rebound effort in Saturday’s semifinal victory over Kentucky remains the leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament at 22.2 points.
Nobody in the nation fills up a stat line like Kaminsky. He leads the Badgers in scoring, rebounding, assists, and blocks. That versatility has been recognized in awards. Kaminsky is a unanimous All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year and has captured national player of the year awards presented by the USBWA and The Associated Press.
“It’s crazy how far he’s come,” Badgers guard Josh Gasser said.
One step remains. Wisconsin has won Big Ten titles and is now in its second straight Final Four in Kaminsky’s career. The Badgers are closer to a national championship than they’ve been since winning it in 1941.
“It would be the perfect way to end things,” Kaminsky said.