Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.
Few periods on the sports calendar generate as much buzz as the first weeks of March, when NCAA conference title chases melt into the thrill of league tournaments, followed by the granddaddy of all sporting events, the 68-team NCAA Tournament.
If you don't feel like filling out a bracket this year and want a rooting interest beyond the obvious Marquette/Wisconsin fandom, take a look at former local standout basketball players and how they may be impacting this year's March Madness (info through Tuesday):
Lake Country flavor
Ben Mills, Colorado
The former Arrowhead aircraft carrier, who led the Warhawks to a state title in 2010, has seen action in five games for the Buffaloes this year. Though he hasn't been a chief contributor, Colorado has put itself in position to make the NCAA Tournament though, at 18-8, they are in danger of falling back onto the bubble.
Kameron Cerroni, UW-Green Bay
The all-time leading scorer in Sussex Hamilton history recently left the team because of differences not associated with playing time, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. UWGB currently sits with the No. 3 seed in the Horizon League tournament, with a 16-13 overall record. Cerroni had 5 points earlier this year in the team's landmark win, a 49-47 upset of Marquette.
Charles Rushman, UNLV
A former standout for Arrowhead, Rushman started his career with the St. John's Northwestern Military Academy post-graduate team, then joined the Runnin' Rebels (21-7) as a redshirt. Though he hasn't played this year, UNLV is receiving votes in the AP and ESPN poll and figures to get an NCAA tourney bid out of the Mountain West.
TJ Bray, Princeton
The Ivy League awards an NCAA bid based on regular-season conclusion, and Princeton is one game back of Harvard in the loss column with a colossal battle scheduled for March 1 at Princeton. Bray, the former Classic 8 Conference Player of the Year with Catholic Memorial, has started all 23 games for the Tigers, averaging 8.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
JP Tokoto, North Carolina
The Menomonee Falls phenom sees about 10 minutes a game for the Tar Heels during his freshman year, and though it hasn't been the typical tremendous year for North Carolina (19-8), it should still find a way into the Big Dance. Tokoto brings in 3 points and two rebounds per game.
Troy Huff, North Dakota
The Brookfield Academy product was second team All-Big Sky last year and leads the team in scoring at greater than 18 points per game for a team that sits third in league play. He missed a good chunk of the season after breaking his jaw in the season opener.
Dance shoes ready
Kwamain Mitchell and Jake Barnett, St. Louis
Nine straight wins for the Billikens, including back-to-back victories over nationally-ranked teams, have the Atlantic 10 frontrunner as a near-lock for the NCAA tournament, ranked 17th and 19th in the two polls. Mitchell, who won a state title with Dominican, averages close to 9 points per game, and Barnett, who also won a state title with Wauwatosa East,adds a little more than 4 per game.
Trey McKinney-Jones, Miami (FL)
The Hurricanes have been one of the biggest stories in NCAA basketball this season, and the South Milwaukee product has been one reason why. A transfer from UMKC, McKinney-Jones scores 9 points in 30 minutes per game. Miami recently saw its 14-game winning streak snapped, though wins in that stretch included a victory over No. 1 Duke and had the Canes flirting with the top spot themselves.
Korie Lucious, Iowa State
The former Pius and Michigan State player has landed with the Cyclones, and he was front and center recently when the team dropped a heartbreaker to Kansas in overtime on ESPN. Lucious averages 10 points per game for a team that should be one of the last at-large squads into the tourney field.
Zak Showalter, Wisconsin
The high flyer from Germantown has seen the floor from time to time on a team with several Wisconsin players, including Evan Anderson (Eau Claire North), JD Wise (Dominican) and Sam Dekker (Sheboygan Lutheran), who has become a freshman sensation off the bench for Bo Ryan.
Jamil Wilson, Marquette
At times, the Oregon transfer from Racine Horlick has been one of Marquette's greatest assets, and though he hasn't yet achieved peak consistency, he's still one of the X-factors for the Big East title contender. Vander Blue (Madison Memorial) has been a mainstay for the Golden Eagles this year, and Jake Thomas (Racine St. Catherine) hit a memorable four-point play in the team's recent win over Syracuse.
DeQuan Hicks, Northwestern State
The former Racine Park and junior college transfer leads the Demons in scoring at 14.2 points per game, and they're tied for first place in the Southland Conference.
You may remember
Paul Jespersen, Virginia. The Merrill product led his team to the state final two years ago. The Cavaliers are a bubble team.
John Kopriva, George Washington. The Marquette product played on the team Arrowhead defeated in the state semifinal in 2010. GW will need an Atlantic 10 tournament run to reach the Big Dance.
Jakob Gollon, Mercer. The Stevens Point graduate is the top rebounder (5.1 ppg) and also scores 8.6 points per game for the first-place team in the Atlantic Sun.
Phillip Nolan, Connecticut. The graduate of Milwaukee Riverside has seen action in 19 games for the Huskies, who will be one of the bubble teams on Selection Sunday. UPDATE: Oops, forgot UCONN is ineligible for this year's tourney because of poor academic marks. No bubble for the Huskies.
Flavien Davis, Montana State. Once a high-flying component of Wisconsin Lutheran's state-title run, Davis now scores 10.6 points per game for a team that needs to win the Big Sky Tournament to get into the dance.
Jake Koch and Chip Rank, Northern Iowa. The Panthers are third place in the competitive Missouri Valley, with Koch (Ashwaubenon) one of the team's leading scorers and Rank (a Cedarburg product who proved to be a huge challenge to Arrowhead during the 2010 Warhawks title run) coming off the bench.
Terell Parks, Western Illinois. Via Beloit Memorial and a community college, Parks is now the leading scorer for the Leathernecks, a squad sitting in second place in the Summit Leauge.
Carrington Love, Green Bay. Last year's Classic 8 Player of the Year from Pius has appeared in all 29 games for the aforementioned Phoenix as a freshman. Jordan Fouse (Racine St. Catherine) also plays a prominent role for Green Bay.
Ben Averkamp, Loyola. The Germantown standout has been one of the best players in the Horizon League, though he's been slowed by injury and the Ramblers won't be favored to win the league tourney.
Charlie Lee, Cleveland State. The Milwaukee Hamilton product averages double figures, but once again, this team has work to do if it intends to make the tournament out of the Horizon.
Drew Windler, South Milwaukee. The Samford transfer and former South Milwaukee player has been sitting out this season, but Belmont does sit in first place in the Ohio Valley.
Jamie Schneck, Hartford. A player who once hit a state-tourney buzzer beater for Whitefish Bay, he has seen action in 26 games for the fourth-place team in the America East.
James Haarsma, UW-Milwaukee. The Racine St. Catherine product is one of the top rebounders on a team that features a number of Wisconsin players, including Steve McWhorter (St. Cat's), Kyle Kelm (Randolph), Evan Richard (Cuba City), J.J. Panoske (Brodhead/Juda), Quinton Gustavson (Racine Case), Austin Arians (Madison Edgewood), Christian Wolf (Kohler), Mitch Roelke (Waunakee) and Joe Tagarelli (Waunakee)
Darrell Bowie, Northern Illinois. The Tosa East graduate and teammate Sam Mader (Appleton East) will have an uphill climb in the Mid-American Conference.
Pictured: Zak Showalter comes off the bench for the Wisconsin Badgers (AP photo).