Coming out of Germantown, WI, Zak Showalter was not a highly coveted recruit. Showalter grew up in Germantown and played for Germantown High School under the coaching of his father Steve. Zak was a legend for his high school, before it was all said and done he would lead the school to a perfect 28-0 record and hold the school’s all time scoring record. Despite that, Zak didn’t receive an offer from the school he wanted to attend: University of Wisconsin. Like many others around the state, Showalter wanted to play for the Badgers, but unlike many others, he actually had the talent and athleticism to do so.
As an All-State selection averaging 19.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, he walked onto the Wisconsin Badgers Basketball team at 6’2” and 195 pounds. Zak wasn’t a blessed athlete who would be the best player on the floor, but rather a gritty defensive specialist who could jump up, grab rebounds, and once and awhile score the occasional bucket. Showalter came in as a true freshman looking like the odd man out on a talented Wisconsin team lead by Senior forwards Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, as well as Junior guards Josh Gasser and Ben Brust.
Showalter was forced into a much bigger role when Gasser went down with a season ending torn ACL just before the season started. Zak played 22 games and averaged 1.7 points per game and 1 rebound. His numbers may not have showed it, but Showalter looked solid. He was scrappy on offense and always played in-your-face defense no matter who he was guarding. Before the 2013-2014 season, Showalter along with the coaching staff saw the returning team and decided to use his redshirt that year to develop his game and work on his body.
Zak returned at a lean and more cut 185 pounds which showed with his athleticism on the court. As a redshirt Sophomore Showalter would have to scrap for minutes behind fellow Sophomore Bronson Koenig as well as Senior leader Josh Gasser. Showalter was one of Bo Ryan’s first guys off the bench averaging 8 minutes, 2 points, and just over a rebound per game. Showalter provided much more for the Badgers that year. He was a sparkplug off the bench and infused energy into a Badger team whenever he was on the court. This showed none more than when the Badgers needed him most in the NCAA Tournament. Zak played two of the best statistical games in his career against Oregon and North Carolina in two crucial games on the Badgers route to their first National Championship game since they won it all in 1941.
Showalter would return for his Junior year, but this time he would be a starter. Something that seemed like an insurmountable goal at the beginning of his career, was now a reality for the kid out of Germantown. In the 2015-2016 season, Showalter started in all 35 games, averaged 31.4 minutes per game and averaged 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and a team-high 80.4 percent shooting at the free throw line. He also shot an effective 34.6% from 3-point range after hitting just 16.7% from deep in his first two seasons. Showalter was known by most fans as the gutty hustle player who was never afraid to take a charge or dive out of bounds to save a possession.
Just as he showed last season and throughout his career, Showalter carried this playing style into this season as well. Being the player that he is, Showalter has not only carried on his playing style, but also a legacy of Wisconsin basketball. Players like current assistant Joe Krabbenhoft, Tim Jarmusz, Mike Bruesewitz, and Josh Gasser to name a few had set a tone around Wisconsin basketball of tough play surrounded by bruises and floor burns.
Zak Showalter carried on that legacy. As a walk- on he had to play with a chip on his shoulder and earned his spot in a competitive rotation among some of the biggest names in Wisconsin Badgers history. So this is to you Mr. Showalter, for carrying on the legacy set by grinding players before you. For becoming a spark as a young player and knowing his role. For becoming a rock, mentor, and defensive specialist, but most importantly, for being a poster child for Wisconsin Basketball.