MILWAUKEE — In "Frank's world," as Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan says, there's a lot happening.
Frank would be Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky, and Ryan doesn't really try to interpret what Kaminsky could be thinking at a given moment.
But there's one memory that has a permanent home in Frank's world — a slight that still burns today even as he looks back from his perch on the All-Big Ten first team.
Kaminsky had just completed his sophomore season at Benet Academy and was practicing with coach Mike Mullins and his Illinois Wolves AAU club.
Mullins had to deliver some harsh news to Kaminsky. He would be left off of the team's travel roster to some major showcase events until he honed his game a little more.
"It was really frustrating. I was just a kid and I just wanted to play," Kaminsky said Wednesday as the Badgers were preparing for their NCAA tournament first-round game against American on Thursday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. "I still think about it sometimes and it still kind of pisses me off."
Kaminsky isn't one to hide his anger. The center will talk to himself, audibly or inaudibly, if things aren't going well on the court.
But in the back of Kaminsky's mind, he knows the patience to endure the occasional snub or speed bump has helped mold him into the player he is today averaging 13.6 points per game thanks to his ability to score inside and out. And even after sprouting from 6-foot-2 guard as a freshman in high school to an even 7 feet as a college junior, there's still room for Kaminsky to grow.
"He has developed so many different parts of his game because he cares," Ryan said. "So even though sometimes you might not think he's listening — he gets in Frank's world, so to speak — he's listening because you can see it in the next possession. You can see it if you give him some constructive criticism."
Frank's world is where only Kaminsky can describe what's going on. Often, if a play goes wrong, Kaminsky will yell a string of expletives at himself though sometimes he keeps it PG.
"Why did you do that, you stupid idiot?" for example.
But that's not to say Kaminsky gets so down on himself he takes himself out of a game. Rather, the self-criticism is a catharsis that allows him to move on to the next play.
"I'd rather scream something and be mad at myself for 10 seconds than let it fester inside of me," Kaminsky said. "It's my way of dealing with things. For me it's productive. For other people, it might not be."
It allows him to clear his mind. In that way, Kaminsky is a model student. Mullins said Kaminsky was one of the "most coachable" kids he ever has tutored and was a rare breed in today's AAU circuit where selfish play can rule the day.
"Frank was going to be successful but 'deferred gratification' and 'get it down the line' is very unusual in today's youth sports," Mullins said.
At first, it wasn't an easy concept for Kaminsky to swallow, especially after the disappointment he experienced after his sophomore year.
"That was one of my biggest moments because, honestly, I wanted to quit the team," Kaminsky said. "I was so upset. With all the different AAU programs around I could find somewhere else where I could play."
But with prodding from his parents, Kaminsky stuck with the Wolves. That turned out to be prudent because playing time is not usually given early at Wisconsin, a program known for taking time to develop players. And this season, something clicked for Kaminsky, who has started to put the various pieces of his game together, even if it sometimes looks as though his mind is scrambled.
"Have you looked at Frank? Sometimes he has a face that looks like he really is somewhere else," Ryan said. "But he's not."
It all makes sense in Frank's world. It's starting to make more and more sense to the rest of the Badgers.
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