The University of Wisconsin has played men’s basketball for 119 seasons and it wasn’t until a year ago that a player’s jersey was hung in the rafters of the Kohl Center.
The No. 8 worn by the late Albert “Ab” Nicholas, a two-time all-Big Ten Conference guard in the 1950s and a program philanthropist, was retired 13 months ago. Today, it will be joined by the No. 44 of center Frank Kaminsky, the hub of UW’s back-to-back NCAA Final Four teams in 2014 and 2015.
I’m not sure what motivated this sudden surge of interest by the UW Athletic Department in honoring players from a program that was largely neglected from the 1950s through the 1980s, but it is long overdue. And no one is more deserving than Kaminsky, the only consensus national player of the year in modern school history.
Unlike the six retired numbers in football, UW won’t technically retire numbers in basketball. Kaminsky’s No. 44 will remain in circulation, but his name and number will be forever celebrated once his jersey is hung next to Nicholas’ at the Kohl Center in a ceremony during tonight’s game against Purdue.
But just because the numbers can be used by others doesn’t mean UW should fill the rafters with jerseys. The list certainly needs to be expanded now that the door has been cracked open, but it should remain a very exclusive club.
Athletic director Barry Alvarez made the decision to retire Kaminsky’s jersey, calling it a “no-brainer.” It’s not the only no-brainer. There are others who should receive strong consideration based on their performance, longevity, impact on the program and honors won at UW.
Here’s my list, starting with the most deserving:
I know I’ve left off dozens of significant figures — Don Rehfeldt and Sam Dekker come to mind — but it’s supposed to be an exclusive club. Still, at the very least my top three deserve to see their jerseys hanging in the Kohl Center some day.