ARLINGTON, Texas -- If the NCAA Tournament has uncovered an emerging star, it has to be 7-foot Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. At that size, you'd think it would be hard to go under the radar, but that's what he did in his first two seasons near the end of the Badgers' bench.
But when Bo Ryan's team made its run to the Final Four to meet Kentucky in the late semifinal Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, it was Kaminsky who was driving the bus. In two seasons, he has gone from a self-described "weak kid," averaging 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in seven minutes a game, to a versatile big man with NBA potential who scores 14.1 points with 6.4 rebounds.
Asked about the difficulty he faced as a late bloomer, Kaminsky dropped into "class clown" mode, answering: "It was difficult growing so much, so fast. My biggest battle was with doorways. I used to hit my head on everything. Learning to duck was my first big battle. Once I conquered that, I knew I would be good going forward."
With a sense of humor like that and the determination to grow into his body and his talent, Kaminsky has been an ideal fit in Ryan's system. But he admits it took time to make the adjustment.
"I got into high school as a 6-3 goofy kid that tried to make jokes to kind of fit in with people," Kaminsky said. "By the time I left high school, I was 6-10, 6-11, and I still was that goofy kid. In college, I came with that attitude, and it didn't really work out for me.
"I let a lot of things faze me and got frustrated all the time. I really wasn't doing the best I could do. I knew I had to grow up physically and mentally. It took me a couple years, but it's worked out."
Has it ever. Kaminsky is a tough cover because he can step outside and hit three-pointers at a 37.8 percent clip or post up and score easily on the inside. He's as big and floppy as your pet Labrador, but his awkward physicality makes it that much more difficult to deny his shot.
Kentucky's 7-foot Dakari Johnson and 6-9 Julius Randle figured to present the greatest challenge yet for Kaminsky. But the Badgers' center said his practice battles the previous two years with the likes of Wisconsin big men Jon Leuer and Jared Berggren prepared him for anything.
"It took awhile," Kaminsky said of his learning curve. "Jared used to beat me up day in and day out, but eventually it got to the point where I was kind of beating him up a little bit. It's a process. It really works for us."
While Kentucky and its latest freshmen sensations were viewed as the favorite, Kaminsky said the Badgers don't see themselves as underdogs. "We feel we can beat anyone, and Kentucky is in our way of getting to what we want, and that's the national championship."
Kaminsky indicated he was pulling for Connecticutin its semifinal against Florida because he was hoping to face UConn guard Ryan Boatright for the title. Kaminsky's high school team at Benet Academy lost the Illinois championship to Boatright's East Aurora High.
"We were undefeated, and he was the first person to beat us," Kaminsky said. "It was a sour taste. He's had a great college career, and he's in the same position I am in the Final Four right now. I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't be nice to match up against him in the final game. But we'll have to get through Kentucky first."