A Wisconsin alumnus’ take on Jon Leuer

Nestled close to the radio in the 50 degree temperature of a Door County evening, I pumped my fist instinctively when it was announced the Milwaukee Bucks selected Jon Leuer with the 40th overall pick in the NBA draft.

Camping in Fish Creek, Wis. last week with limited access to Wi-Fi and inconsistent cell coverage, I was almost completely cut off from the rumors swirling around the draft. I knew the Bucks worked out Leuer, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

As a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus, I was on the fence about Leuer as a Buck going into the draft. I was a sophomore when he was just a skinny freshman with a disproportionately small head. I remember sitting in U.S. history during the first week of classes and predicting the stick figure that just sat down behind me would not have much of a career as a Badger.

While he remains thin and his head is still too small for his body, Leuer certainly proved me wrong.

After getting limited minutes as a freshman, Leuer made significant contributions as a sophomore before becoming a key player his last two years at Wisconsin.

It did not take Leuer long to show me I was significantly undervaluing him. The first sign my prediction would be incorrect arrived in the first game of the 2007-08 Big Ten season. I remember watching Leuer go 5-for-5 from behind the arc against Michigan and immediately thinking the Badgers could have another Mike Wilkinson on their hands.

For you Bucks fans who do not follow the Badgers, Wilkinson was a 6-foot-8-inch former Wisconsin Mr. Basketball who had a solid four-year career in Madison after redshirting as a freshman. He provided a nice complement to Devin Harris and could play both inside the paint and beyond the 3-pt line.

As I watched Leuer explode at Michigan, I looked at him as a player who, like Wilkinson, would be a nice complement to a star guard like Harris. After showing steady improvement as a sophomore, Leuer went on to exceed my expectations as a junior.

To me, Leuer became the best player on the Badgers in his third year. He would often set up beyond the arc and use his quickness to take bigger players off the dribble. Leuer did miss a good chunk of the Big Ten season that year with a wrist injury, but he returned and put up nice numbers in postseason play.

With the departures of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, it appeared Leuer was poised to be the unquestioned leader of the 2010-11 Wisconsin Badgers. While Jordan Taylor emerged and stole some of his thunder, Leuer still had a successful senior year. Like Wilkinson and Harris, Taylor and Leuer formed a lethal combination and carried the Badgers in most games.

Watching Leuer for four years, I had little doubt he could play in the NBA. After all, bigger guys with 3-pt range seem to find a role in the league despite other shortcomings…Brian Scalabrine anyone? Despite that, I had a hard time understanding how Leuer would be able to guard professional power forwards.

As my initial excitement over the Bucks landing a Badger dissipated, those same questions once again lingered. At only 220 pounds, I cannot see Leuer standing much of a chance against any power forward with a back to the basket game.

While I will cheer for him relentlessly, Leuer looks like a situational, end of the bench guy to me. Just remember, he proved me wrong once before. As a Bucks fan, I hope he can do it again.

Josh Hilgendorf is a contributor to the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).

Categories: Draft Talk

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