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Saturday, February 19, 2011
Benet's Kaminsky big, complete package

By Scott Powers

Benet senior Frank Kaminsky isn’t an ESPNU top-100 prospect.

He isn’t likely to be a first-team All-State selection.

He doesn’t score 30 points per game.

If those were distinctions Kaminsky sought, those around him believe he could obtain them. But it’s not what Kaminsky wants. What he seeks are challenges.

In Kaminsky’s eyes, there isn’t a reward in dropping 30 points a game, dominating smaller opponents or building an undefeated record by beating inferior teams. Instead, he prefers to be as multi-dimensional as possible, face players of his 6-foot-11 size and have Benet go unbeaten by taking on the best of teams.

Frank Kaminsky
Benet's Frank Kaminsky has helped the Redwings to a 25-0 record this season.
Kaminsky may not be as highly regarded as some centers in the country, but with Benet (25-0) possessing a No. 24 national ranking in ESPN RISE’s FAB 50 and the No. 2 spot in ESPNChicago.com’s area poll with an upcoming shot against No. 1 Simeon on Saturday, Kaminsky is achieving exactly what he set out to.

“People want big numbers, stats or whatever,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “He’s won a lot of games. He gives up scoring to do a lot. He could score 30 or 40. When people talk about [Ryan] Boatright, [Wayne] Blackshear, they deserve everything they get, but they’re in different systems, different situations. Frank sacrifices individual scoring to win games and play within a team concept.”

If scoring was what the Redwings needed, Kaminsky would give it to them. There have been games where the situation has called for Kaminsky to be the offensive aggressor, and he’s proven with a 25-point performance against Oswego and a 30-point one against Notre Dame that he can do that.

More often, Benet asks Kaminsky to utilize his full tool set. Atypical to most players of his 6-11, 235-pound frame, Kaminsky has a plentiful array of tools to choose from.

He blocks shots, averaging 4.2 per game, and alters even more. He knows to use his size and rarely gets into foul trouble.

He makes shots. He’s good for 68% of what he puts up from the field, and he’s even better in the paint. He’s able to step out to 15 feet and consistently drain jumpers. He can also knock down 3-pointers and rarely misses in practice, but he has struggled to put it together in games.

He rebounds, averaging 10 a game. Again, he understands how to use his height and width. He puts himself in a perfect position around the basket, boxes out and snatches the rebound.

He can dish the ball, averaging 3.4 assists. He’ll attack one-on-one coverages without hesitating, but put two or three defenders on him and he’ll find his open teammate.

He can also handle it. Because Kaminsky never went through one major growth spurt, his coordination never left him. He was a 6-3 freshman, a 6-6 sophomore, a 6-10 junior and now a 6-11 senior. He was a guard growing up and has kept the bulk of those skills. When starting point guard David Sobolewski, a Northwestern Wildcats recruit, injured his back in January, Heidkamp turned to Kaminsky to bring the ball up court.

“I’ve worked on every skill since I was a little kid,” Kaminsky said. “I just love basketball, all of it in general. I like to be able to do everything. I take pride in it.”

Opponents aren’t as fond of it. Opposing coaches struggle with putting a smaller or larger defender on him. He’s exactly what coaches are referring to when they talk about matchup nightmares.

Notre Dame coach Tom Les has had the unpleasant task of facing Kaminsky twice this season. The first time around, Kaminsky scored 32 points on 14-of-16 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Last week, Kaminsky had game-highs of 16 points and 13 rebounds.

“We’ve played other guys of his size,” Les said. “Peoria Notre Dame’s Max Bielfeldt and St. Ignatius’ Nnanna Egwu, who is going to Illinois Fighting Illini, are kids around the same size. The difference with Frank is he steps outside a little bit, and he’s a little more mobile than the other bigs.”

To help showcase that all-around game against other elite centers and to high-major college programs, Kaminsky joined the Illinois Wolves, one of the state’s elite club teams.

Kaminsky wasn’t a star overnight on the travel circuit, and it didn’t panic him. Kaminsky continued to develop his skills, learned how to guard and be guarded by players of his size and, in time, discovered how to control a game at the club level as he did the high school one.

“Frank and his family are an anomaly in travel basketball showing restraint and common sense as he developed,” Wolves coach Mike Mullins said. “Frank accepted the fact that his time would come and like other Wolves’ players that his growth as a player would get him to where he wanted to go. The trust Frank and his family placed in our staff was refreshing in this day of instant gratification.

“The skill set and work ethic Frank already has, coupled with the ability to learn and be a great teammate, are invaluable assets that Frank will carry with him.”

Kaminsky’s multi-faceted game would be useful in most college systems, but it’s easy to see why he and Wisconsin Badgers found each other to be perfect matches. The Badgers and versatile big men have achieved continual success in Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s swing offense.

“When you talk about fit, Kaminsky fits the Badgers like a hand in a glove,” ESPN recruiting coordinator Reggie Rankin said. “He has great size in terms of length and skill. He’s perfect for pick-and-pop situations to 18-19 feet. He has good mobility and passes well for a big man. As he adds strength and works daily with Bo Ryan and his staff, the sky is the limit because of Kaminsky’s great upside. The Badgers did a great job of evaluating to fit not only their needs, but their system as well.”

Badgers assistant coach Lamont Paris believes so as well.

“All of the things, especially from bigger guys who have had success at Wisconsin, he has those skills,” Paris said. “Because of what we do offensively, having a skill set is critical to have success. He’s got good length and good size and a good frame. He’s capable of doing a lot of things.”

Paris also thinks Kaminsky should be ranked higher than where is among other Class of 2011 players. ESPN Recruiting doesn’t have him in its top 100 and he’s the No. 15 overall center. But like current Wisconsin stars Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, Paris expects Kaminsky will have the last laugh.

“I think when guys, especially on the AAU scene and high school scene, are out there scoring 47 points, they’re going to garner a little more attention at the national level,” Paris said. “Because a guy scores 47 points, people are going to take notice of it. Guys like Frank go about their business and are consistent every night.

“Whether or not he’s capable of that, that’s not the makeup of him. The biggest thing is his team wins. There are other guys who have all this reputation, and they’re surrounded by good players, and their teams aren’t winning.”

It’s why Kaminsky doesn’t care what his numbers will be come Saturday when Benet meets Simeon. All he wants is a victory.

“It means a lot,” Kaminsky said. “We want to be undefeated the whole season.”

For that to happen, though, Kaminsky likely has to do as he normally does.

“We need him to play well,” Heidkamp said. “It would be nave for me to say, ‘If he has a poor game we would win.’ ”