Frank Kaminsky: Developing Into a National College Player of the Year

by Cody Cunningham

Phoenix Suns General Manager James Jones has seemed to put an emphasis on acquiring successful college athletes including two national champions in Mikal Bridges and Ty Jerome the last two years and also drafting UNC’s Cam Johnson. That list continued last month as the Suns signed free agent Frank Kaminsky. 

While during his college years, Kaminsky and the Wisconsin Badgers may not have been crowned champions, his determination throughout his four years spent in Madison helped lead his team to the National Championship game and earned himself the consensus National College Player of the Year in 2015.

All of this became possible after Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan spotted the big man in high school in Lisle, Illinois, but beyond Kaminsky’s physical tools, it was actually his intelligence that sold Coach Ryan.

“Frank was a late bloomer,” Ryan said. “I knew about his grades… So, I knew academically he could handle Wisconsin because of how smart he played. And then each time I saw him he was better than he was the last time. So, in other words, he was developing right in front of everybody’s eyes, and we were fortunate to have been in early with Wisconsin being pretty close, that obviously helped.” 

Ryan knew that Kaminsky could easily fit into his system at Wisconsin, in large part to do with his passing ability for his size. Whether or not he could be a star was another question, but his unselfish mentality mixed with his consistent improvement and basketball IQ was enough to earn him a role with the Badgers.  

Nothing after this point came easy for Kaminsky who averaged just short of two points per game in 35 games his freshman season, but the belief from Coach Ryan kept pushing him forward. 

Kaminsky doubled his scoring average going into his sophomore year, then nearly quadrupled that in his junior season and lastly added another five points per game as a senior. He had a remarkable jump in numbers off the glass as well, going from averaging 1.4 rebound to 8.2 as he began using his size to his advantage while adding strength. 

But beyond the points and rebounds, his biggest growth was from the three-point line. Every season his percentage grew and by his senior year, Kaminsky was shooting 41.6 percent from deep as one of the top shooting college big men the game has ever seen. 

His commitment, dedication and hard work at practice and in the gym turned the non-traditional center into the 2015 consensus National College Player of the year. 

“More than any other player in the country, I don’t think there's ever been or ever will be a National College Player of the Year that had his stats over a four-year period,” Ryan said. “We don't know of anybody who has ever developed in a four-year period like the Frank.” 

It was always easy for Coach Ryan to have Kaminsky in the game because he had such an unselfish mentality and never worried about himself, just the team. Ryan believes that this can translate to any team and that it will be an easy fit for Kaminsky with the Suns due to his personality and diverse skillset. 

“First of all, he should be accepted in a locker room situation and the flow of the team because he has multiple skills,” Ryan said. “Obviously he likes to compete… But he’s got a skillset where he can help the team in more ways than one.” 

A seven-footer that can knock down a three ball consistently while also having the ability to play make for his teammates is something no team is going pass on. Still just four years in the league, the potential and growth is still ahead for Kaminsky with the next step being to find his role in a Suns uniform. 

“Sometimes these guys go through college programs, NBA, professional and they never really know what the coach wanted,” Ryan said. “As long as he knows what it is and understands it, he will give everything he has and that’s always been the way he’s played.”

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