Despite playing in front of 17,000 red-clad fans at the Kohl Center, Sam Dekker still hears his dad talking to him. Not from the stands, but in his head. Dekker's father Todd, who also coached Dekker at Sheboygan Lutheran High School, had plenty of advice the Badgers' leading scorer still draws upon.
"We'd be working out at an early age, I'd throw fits if I was missing shots," said the younger Dekker after helping Wisconsin top Michigan State. "[My dad] wouldn't get on me, but he'd teach me a lesson, 'hey, this is not going to get you any better. If you pout, have a pity party about how things are going, you're not going to get better.'"
This particular advice came in handy recently, as Dekker saw his shooting slip slightly during the Badgers recent losses. His field goal percentage was 10% lower during the team's five losses than during the season as a whole. Now, however, shots are falling for Dekker and the Badgers seem to be back on track.
[caption id="attachment_6537" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sheboygan Lutheran High School's Sam Dekker goes up for a shot against Racine Lutheran in the WIAA Division 5 state championship game, March 17, 2012, in Madison. (WLUK/Doug Ritchay)[/caption]
Dekker's sophomore campaign sees him leading his team in scoring, tied for the team lead in rebounds and is tied for third in assists. He attributes growth in his second season to a lot of experience during his first, when he became just the fourth true freshman to start a game for Bo Ryan at Wisconsin (Dekker started three times).
"Learning how to play in these big games, even how to control your mind, heart rate and all that stuff," said Dekker. "I feel much more comfortable this year, much more relaxed. Feeling like I know I belong out there."
Dekker also is stepping into more of a leadership role. The forward says he is speaking up more this season in addition to leading with his play on the court.
"I learned a lot from Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren, those guys, and how they led our team," said Dekker. "Having them leave, I felt like, hey, that's a role I can step up into. We have five leaders on the court at all times; I just try to be one of them."
Dekker led Sheboygan Lutheran to a state title in 2012 with a game-winning 3-pointer in the championship game.