NEW YORK — Ethan Happ needs more information before he decides whether he’ll return for his senior season with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program.
Happ said after the Badgers’ 63-60 loss to Michigan State in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal on Friday at Madison Square Garden that he’ll declare for the NBA draft with the intention on gathering feedback from front-office personnel on where his stock stands.
A change in the entry process two years ago gave potential early enrollees more time to make an informed decision. Happ can attend the combine in Chicago from May 16-20 if he’s invited and give himself a chance to improve his stock.
As long as he doesn’t sign with an agent, Happ has until the June 11 deadline to make his decision on whether or not to pull out of the draft.
Happ, who finished with a game-high 22 points against the Spartans, believes he’s a second-round pick right now in the eyes of NBA personnel.
“That’s not where I want to be,” he said. “If the combine doesn’t change that, then I’d probably say that I would come back.”
Even if he’s not drafted, Happ would have the option of becoming a professional and start earning money rather than returning to UW for a fifth season. Playing overseas would allow him to do that, as would a spot on an NBA G-League roster.
But it doesn’t appear Happ would go that route. He said he’s spoken with former teammates Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, both of whom are playing in the G-League this season.
“Obviously, Nigel got his 10-day (contract with the Los Angeles Lakers) and that was special for him,” Happ said. “But that’s not where I want to be in a year. If that’s what GMs are telling me, where I’d be a late second round or a second-round pick, I’d rather develop in college than develop in the G-League.”
In January, with the Badgers in the midst of a slump, rumors circulated that Happ might consider transferring following this season. He’s on pace to graduate from UW in May and would have the option of heading elsewhere as a graduate transfer.
Not happening, according to Happ.
“I’m just worried about the draft right now,” he said. “And if it’s not the draft, I’ll be back at Wisconsin.”
If Happ returns, the Badgers (15-18) would return all five starters from a team that made a late-season surge. They’d also add sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice and freshman wing Kobe King back to the mix after both missed the final 23 games of the season with injuries.
Would a promising season on the horizon for UW factor in Happ’s decision?
“Not especially,” he said. “There is a little part that, yeah, we can do some damage next year. But at the same time, I can’t make my decision based off of that. It’s got to be the feedback that I get from GMs and stuff like that to see if I would (get drafted) or where I would end up.”
It’s clear Happ’s teammates would love to have him back. Happ, who already is 10th all-time at UW in career points, second in rebounds, 15th in assists, third in steals and sixth in blocks, would be able to leave an outstanding legacy with another big year.
“That’s a personal decision,” UW freshman guard Brad Davison said. “I’ll probably try to talk to him as a friend, just to see what he’s thinking. But I know (that) I’ve loved having the opportunity to play with him this year and I don’t know where his head is at with that, but I would love the opportunity to play with him again. I hope this wasn’t the way we went out.”
Surgery for Davison
Davison, who played most of the season with an injured shoulder that became dislocated six times during games, plans to have surgery as soon as possible.
“I know it's going to be a very long offseason for me,” he said “I’m not looking forward to that. But I am looking forward to being able to play the way I want to play.”
The rehabilitation process following shoulder surgery is a long and likely will wipe out a significant portion of Davison’s offseason. He said he has “100 percent faith he’ll be fine for next year.”
So no chance he’ll miss the start of the 2018-19 season?
“No,” he said, “I won’t let them do that.”
UW wasted some quality scoring opportunities down the stretch against Michigan State.
In addition to two missed free throws by junior swingman Khalil Iverson and another by Happ with the Badgers trailing 60-58, UW sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl was too tentative on a play earlier in the half.
Michigan State was leading 53-51 when Pritzl made a nice cut and was wide open underneath the basket. Rather than put up the shot right away, he hesitated for a split second before pump-faking. When he finally went up with the shot, it was too late and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston blocked Pritzl’s attempt.
A similar situation played out earlier in the half.
“I just have programmed myself to always pump fake,” Pritzl said. “Pump fakes are great, but a couple times I beat the guy to a spot and I’ve just got to make the heady play and just finish right away. Sure, their length plays a little bit of a role right away, but when it comes down to it, we’re all basketball players and I just have to not let myself get so programmed.”