Indiana Daily Student

Kaminsky draws comparisons to Zeller

IU coach Tom Crean watches the action from the sidelines during a game March 8, 2009, at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisc.
IU coach Tom Crean watches the action from the sidelines during a game March 8, 2009, at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisc.

He’s a highly skilled 7-footer who is equally comfortable playing in the low post, at the elbow or around the perimeter. He’s the focal point of the Big Ten’s best offense and one of the country’s top teams. The Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, and he’ll almost certainly be a first-round NBA Draft pick in April.

It’s a description that fits former IU standout Cody Zeller as well as it does Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. Two years after Zeller left IU for the NBA, Kaminsky has taken his place as the conference’s best big man.

Their numbers flesh out the similarities. In the 2012-13 season, Zeller’s last at IU, he averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

This season, Kaminsky has tallied 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a senior. The two players’ true shooting percentages — which account for the added difficulty of 3-pointers and ease of free throws in measuring a player’s shooting ability — are almost exactly the same at 62 percent.

IU Coach Tom Crean sees parts of Zeller’s game in Kaminsky, notably in his ability to create shots for teammates.

“Cody Zeller was like that his sophomore year for us, where he could really make plays when he drove the ball,” Crean said. “It didn’t just have to be for his scoring. It could be for his teammates. You have to account for that.”

Kaminsky does provide a key weapon Zeller never fully developed in his collegiate career — a 3-point shot. He’s become one of the Big Ten’s most efficient long-range shooters, knocking down 41 percent of his attempts from deep this season.

It’s a massive improvement from Kaminsky’s freshman season, in which he shot just 29 percent from 3-point range. His percentage has steadily climbed each season, and his overall production has risen with it.

A 3-star recruit out of high school, Kaminsky averaged 2.9 points and 1.6 rebounds during his first two seasons at Wisconsin.

A breakout season last year — in which those numbers rose to 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game — saw Kaminsky establish himself as one of the premier big men in the country.

Now, he’s the anchor of the Badgers’ top-ranked offense, leading the team in scoring and rebounds and ranking second in assists. A front-runner for National Player of the Year, he’s the team’s talisman — as he goes, so do the Badgers.

When he suffered a concussion and was forced to miss Wisconsin’s game against Rutgers last month, the Badger offense stuttered, scoring just 62 points in the loss. He returned the next game and scored 22 points in a win against Nebraska.

Much like Zeller, Kaminsky has handled the ball more often as his career has progressed. Rather than setting up as a traditional post player, Kaminsky bounces around the court, running Wisconsin’s offense from a variety of spots. It’s that versatility that makes him such a threat, Crean said.

“Frank is a guy that you can play through on the perimeter, in the post, in the high post, and he can drive the ball,” Crean said. “So you have to be aware of him at all times.”

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