By GERY WOELFEL
Wisconsin isn’t exactly known as a high school basketball hotbed.
Yet, the Badger State has produced a slew of professional players in recent years. In fact, five Wisconsin prep players have been selected in the first round of the NBA draft in the last four years.
That number is expected to grow in this year’s draft, which will be held Thursday, as Brandin Podziemski, a guard from Santa Clara who was born in Greenfield, will likely be among the first 30 picks. Several NBA officials have told me Podziemski is projected to be selected in the 20-30 range.
Here is a list of the former Wisconsin high school players who have been first-round selections since the 2019 draft:
- Tyler Herro – The shooting guard who played at Whitnall High School was the 13th overall choice, taken by the Miami Heat.
- Jordan Poole – The Golden State Warriors chose Poole, a shooting guard who played at Milwaukee Rufus King, with the 29th overall selection.
- Tyrese Haliburton — The former Oshkosh North High School star was the 12th overall pick, chosen by the Sacramento Kings. Haliburton now plays for the Indiana Pacers and was chosen for the NBA All-Star Game last season.
- Johnny Davis — The former University of Wisconsin standout who played at La Crosse Central High School was taken in the lottery last year by the Washington Wizards, the 10th overall pick.
- Patrick Baldwin – The ex-Sussex Hamilton High School standout was drafted by the Golden State Warriors, the 28h overall selection. Baldwin is one of three Warriors form Wisconsin, joining Poole and Kevon Looney, the former Milwaukee Hamilton High School star who was taken by the Warriors with the 30th overall pick in the 2015 draft
Who is that man?
One of the more interesting players who tested the NBA draft waters this year was Jacksun Hamilton of UW-Parkside.
Hamilton, a 6-7 forward who played at Logan High School in La Crosse, started only two games last season and averaged a mere 1.3 points for the Rangers, who are an NCAA Division II school.
Hamilton withdrew from the draft and is expected to transfer to another school this summer.
Rumors persist the Miami Heat will try to trade Tyler Herro this summer.
Herro’s name popped up in a potential trade for Bradley Beal, the Washington Wizards’ talented guard who was recently dealt to Phoenix.
“There’s interest in Herro,’’ an NBA executive said. “He’s a good player. I’m sure they could get a starter for him. He’s just not fitting in down there (in Miami).’’
Herro broke his right hand in the first round of the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks and didn’t play thereafter. But he fashioned impressive back-to-back regular seasons, averaging 20.7 points two seasons ago and then 20.1 points last season.
Herro has four pro seasons under his belt but is only 23 years old.
- Rumors also persist the Portland Trail Blazers will move standout guard Damian Lillard.
“I think they’ll do him (Lillard) right,’’ a general manager said. “They appreciate what he’s done for them. I think they’ll move him to a contender.’’
Dilland has been linked to several contending teams, the most prominent being Miami, but an NBA official speculated Boston could be in the picture as well. The Celtics are very receptive to making a trade and have the wherewithal to acquire Lillard, a seven-time All-Star who’ll turn 33 on July 15.
Any potential Lillard trade, the official said, would have to include veteran Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who is 29 and was the 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Johnny Davis, the former University of Wisconsin star who was taken with the 10th overall pick by the Washington Wizards in the 2022 NBA draft, is expected to participate in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July. Davis had a rocky rookie season but showed some encouraging signs at the tail end by averaging 17.2 points in the final four games. … A player to keep an eye on in the draft: Keyonte George of Baylor. Once considered a lock to be taken in the lottery, George may slide. “He’s talented, no doubt,’’ an NBA scout said, “but he has some growing up to do.’’ … A longtime NBA scout: “This is a very good draft class. Next year’s draft won’t be (good) and neither will the draft class after that.’’