It was just a guess, but Chucky Hepburn’s high school coach thought he’d take multiple visits, play his junior season in high school and wait until the spring to pick a college.
Hepburn had another timeline in mind. The 6-foot-1 point guard from Nebraska orally committed to the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program on Sunday following an official visit to campus over the weekend.
It’s another significant addition for Greg Gard and his staff, who are on a roll on the recruiting front the past 3½ months. UW has landed commitments from six scholarship players since June 15. The Badgers are off to a strong start in the 2021 class, with Hepburn joining 6-8 forward Chris Hodges of Illinois.
Hepburn is close with Matthew Mors, a 6-7 forward from South Dakota who also committed Sunday.
Hepburn averaged 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.4 steals as a sophomore last season at Bellevue West High School, helping his team reach the state semifinals. He also started as a freshman on a team that reached the state final.
“He has rare instincts for the game offensively and defensively,” Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard said last week. “He’s well, well above his years in terms of the ability to anticipate people coming open offensively and therefore deliver the ball on time, in rhythm, to shooters or rollers if he’s running ball-screen stuff.
“And he has the ability defensively to see plays, so he’s got a very high steal rate but he doesn’t gamble and put the rest of your defense at risk. He’s obviously got very good physical ability or you don’t get recruited at that level. He’s strong, quick, fast with the ball. But it’s the instincts, to me, that put him ahead of guys that may have a similar physical profile.”
Hepburn is ranked No. 125 in the 2021 class by Rivals. He also had offers from Nebraska, Minnesota and Creighton.
Woodard said Hepburn took 18 charges as a freshman and about 20 as a sophomore. He also pointed to his rebounding totals as further proof that Hepburn is willing to mix it up despite not being the biggest player on the court.
“He never backs down physically or mentally,” Woodard said. “That mental toughness and physical toughness is something that separates him.”
UW’s recruiting run began in mid-June with commitments from La Crosse Central siblings Johnny and Jordan Davis. Hodges committed in August, and UW landed commitments from Minnesota big men Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson earlier this month to complete its 2020 class.
The Badgers also got landed a preferred walk-on, forward Carter Gilmore of Hartland Arrowhead, over the summer.
Even though he expected Hepburn’s recruiting process to play out a little longer, Woodard said that it wouldn’t be because his standout point guard was craving attention. In fact, Woodard said Hepburn’s humility and personality are among the traits that make him so likable.
“The best thing about him is he’s so level-headed,” Woodard said. “He’s had such a solid upbringing family wise. His eyes aren’t getting too big and he’s not getting big-headed.
“The best thing you can say about Chucky is around school here, everybody likes him. Whether you’re in the ‘athletic’ group or the ‘music’ group, everybody likes Chucky because he treats everybody well. He’s just so personable. Adults like him a lot because he’s always saying hello to them, asking them how their day is. He’s just mature beyond his years.”