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.
The WIAA boys basketball tournament celebrated its 100th anniversary last weekend, complete with acknowledgments of past champions in a Kohl Center concourse display, introductions of past legends and newspaper coverage focusing on the history of the tournament.
After hearing Adam Spano talk for a few minutes, my instinct was to ask whether or not he had been raised by American parents living in the Czech Republic. I admit it: I thought he would have a European accent, or at least a hint in his speech pattern that suggested he wasn't native-born.
A small handful of former girls basketball players from the state of Wisconsin are suiting up for their own Big Dance, beginning Friday.
Samanatha Logic, Sr., Iowa. The Racine Case product has started all 31 games for the Hawkeyes, averaging 13.5 points and 8.0 assists per game, along with 6.8 rebounds. She was a consensus first-team All Big Ten choice, making the list for a second straight year, and was recently named second-team All America by ESPN. She appears on the Wooden Award National Ballot and is a finalist for the Liebermann Award given to the best point guard in the nation. Teammate Carly Mohns (Brodhead) is a freshman who has appeared in 14 games for the Hawkeyes.
First round: No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 14 American, 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 20
Gabbi Ortiz, Fr., Oklahoma. After a spectacular career at Racine Prairie, Ortiz has immediately fit in at the college level, starting all 31 games for the Sooners and leading the team in minutes while scoring 7.8 points per game.
First round: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 Quinnipiac, 4 p.m. Saturday, March 21
Alex Cohen, Sr., Northwestern. The former Nicolet center was part of a state-championship run in high school, and this year she averages 8.7 points and 4.9 rebounds while starting every game for the Wildcats, with 52 assists and 53 blocks. Her teammates include freshman Lydia Rohde of Brookfield Central (20 games played) and Maya Jonas of Whitefish Bay (4 games played)
First round: No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Arkansas, noon Friday, March 20
Mehryn Kraker, Soph., UW-Green Bay. The redshirt sophomore from West Allis Central has meant everything to the Phoenix, a perennial tournament visitor that nonetheless has a tough first-round draw against undefeated Princeton. Kraker has started all 32 games and leads the team in points (12.3), rebounds (5.0) and blocks (22), with 30 steals as well. Naturally, the team features the greatest Wisconsin presence in the field, including sophomore Sam Terry of Baraboo (8.2 points per game), freshman Allie LeClaire of Green Bay Notre Dame (7.5 ppg), freshman Jessica Lindstrom of Superior (4.8 ppg), sophomore Lexi Weitzer of Waukesha South (4.4 ppg). Freshmen Laken James of Oconto and Jen Wellnitz of Black Hawk are redshirting.
First round: No. 8 Princeton vs. No. 9 Green Bay, 11:05 a.m. Saturday, March 21
Taylor Gradinjan, Fr., Florida Gulf Coast. The redshirt freshman from Cudahy has seen action in all 32 games this season, scoring 6.1 points per game. Fellow redshirt freshmen Jessica Cattani of Muskego (18 games played) and Morgan Blumer of Milton (8 games played) make up a solid contingent of state representation. Florida Gulf Coast has been part of a movement that has seen several ranked mid-major programs in the Top 25 this year.
First round: No. 7 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State, 11:05 a.m. Saturday, March 21
The WIAA Division 2 boys basketball race looked pretty wide open heading into the playoffs. It's even wider-open now.
Each year, I like to take a look at the Wisconsin prep basketball players who have moved on to the college ranks with a chance to appear in the NCAA Tournament. It is, after all, the finest spectacle in all of sports.