December 30, 2008
Gard after 2011 prospect
Milwaukee - When Wisconsin played Ohio State under the lights at Camp Randall in early November, the Badger football and basketball programs both used the weekend as a prime recruiting opportunity to showcase the university.
During that weekend, head coach Bo Ryan and his staff welcomed 2009 recruits Diamond Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz (official visits), along with Evan Anderson and Vander Blue (unofficial visits), Wisconsin's two in-state verbals in the 2010 class.
But looking further into the future, 2011 prospects Paul Jesperson and Spencer Turner were extended invitations to tour the facilities and scrimmage with the four commits and current Badger players at the Kohl Center.
"It went real well," said Jesperson after Merrill's 60-50 win over Heritage Christian in the St. Thomas More Tournament Monday night.
"Those guys are all real competitive and they really get after it on the court. It was great to play with them. Those guys are real tough; Vander can take it to the hole real well. Evan's a big guy in the post and he's a great player. It was just a real good experience."
Bruesewitz, who committed to Wisconsin in late February, came away impressed with Jesperson's play.
"He was actually on my team and played real well for a 15-year-old," Bruesewitz said at the time. "He went in there and wasn't really intimidated at all. He didn't seem too overmatched and he was comfortable on the floor."
A varsity starter since his freshman season, Jesperson, a 6-foot-6 guard, is currently hearing from a handful of schools, with Wisconsin, led by the recruiting efforts of Greg Gard, leading the way.
"Wisconsin has been showing me the most attention, along with Marquette and North Dakota State," said Jesperson, who is still waiting for his first official scholarship offer. "Right now I'm really not sure about where I want to go, but I'm pretty interested in Wisconsin. I grew up rooting for them and if they offered it would be a great opportunity for me.
"They would be close to the top (of my list)."
Along with Jesperson, 2011 in-state prospects Darell Longstreet (Kenosha Tremper) and Quevyn Winters (Milwaukee Washington) have visited Madison during the 2008 football season.
Wisconsin is expected to have four scholarships to offer to the current sophomore class.
The adage that Bo Ryan recruits players that fit his system is a bit overused, but it seemed pretty appropriate after watching Jesperson play for the first time Monday night. The sophomore is fundamentally sound and carries a high basketball IQ on the court, two things Ryan demands from his players.
The most intriguing thing about the 6-foot-6 guard, however, is how fluid he is with the ball in his hands.
"I prefer playing the one," said Jesperson, who is the tallest player on the Bluejays' roster. "I like bringing the ball up and getting the offense set."
For the majority of the night, Jesperson ran the show and played primarily around the perimeter against Heritage Christian. He got a touch on just about every offensive possession and was able to penetrate and dish against the Patriots' 2-3 zone defense.
It's tempting to call him a point-forward, but the as the game wore on, it was apparent Jesperson may be capable of playing either guard position at the next level should he continue to improve over the next two-plus seasons.
Jesperson has great shot mechanics and can connect from beyond the 3-point arc. He uses a solid shot fake to his advantage and gets to the hoop consistently where he can finish with either hand. There's nothing flashy about his game and he doesn't wow you with his athleticism, but there's not doubt he's a Division I caliber basketball player.
If you were to compare him to another player, I'd say Jesperson is similar to Mike Dunleavy Jr. when he was at Duke. He glides up and down the court and seems to make all the right decisions with and without the ball in his hands. Former Marquette star Steve Novak also came to mind, but Novak was three inches taller and had a better jumper during his sophomore season at Brown Dear.
As far as weaknesses, Jesperson is a bit uncomfortable with his back to the basket. He also doesn't attack the glass too often, though he does rebound and defend well in the post. He also needs to fill out a bit, but he does have the frame to add 15 or 20 more pounds before he gets to the collegiate level.
In a class that has four openings, it's realistic that Jesperson, if offered, could be an early addition to UW's class.
Badger fans should also be encouraged that Kurt Soderberg, the younger brother of former Wisconsin and Saint Louis University coach, Brad Soderberg, is guiding him through his prep career.
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