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Badgers star Frank Kaminsky laughs, leads team back to NCAA

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Aspiring videographer. Team jokester. Proud Wisconsin student.

“Call me Joe College if you please,” Frank Kaminsky once wrote on a blog post explaining his decision to return to the Badgers for his senior season.

It’s worked out quite well for the versatile 7-footer. Wisconsin is the top seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament a year after a Final Four run.

Lacking a McDonald’s High School All-American pedigree, Kaminsky might be the unlikeliest player in a while to ascend from relative anonymity to college basketball stardom and a potential player of the year. He might be one of the most entertaining, too.

“The GoPro is just something for the chronicles, for the archivists,” Kaminsky said on Senior Day at the Kohl Center when asked why he strapped the mini-camera to his chest to film celebrations before and after a win.

Nearby, guard Josh Gasser chuckled. Teammates always seem to be laughing around Kaminsky after games.

Basketball and a sense of humor are Kaminsky family traits. Kaminsky’s father, who is also named Frank, said his son was always the tallest kid in class going back to grammar school.

“The way he compensated for that was he was the class clown, the class goof. He likes to have a good time, likes to be with his friends,” said the elder Kaminsky, who has coached and also played college basketball at Lewis.

Dad knows what his son was going through.

“He tells people ‘My dad and I are both goofs,” the elder Kaminsky said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Few would also dispute that the younger Kaminsky is perhaps the hardest-working player on the Badgers (31-3). Kaminsky had to earn his time after averaging 10 minutes a game two seasons ago as a sophomore.

“Frank — he’s always the last one to leave the court after practice. When you see the P-O-Y doing that, it kind of rubs off on other guys,” said forward Nigel Hayes in spelling out the abbreviation for “Player of the Year.” Like Kaminsky, Hayes makes teammates laugh.

“I think it lets other guys know that if Double-A is doing this, I think we should probably be doing it as well,” Hayes said matter-of-factly. “‘Double-A’ is All-American.”

Double-A and the rest of the Badgers open tournament play on Friday night in Omaha, Nebraska, against 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina.

Kaminsky’s rise began on Nov. 19, 2013, when he went 16 of 19 in a win over North Dakota to set the school single-game scoring record with 43 points. He turned into a star during last year’s run to the NCAAs, highlighted by a 28-point performance against Arizona in the regional final.

As it turned out, there wasn’t much drama in Kaminsky’s decision to return for his senior year.

“It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. “It wasn’t even much of a decision.”

A double-double threat every time he takes the floor, Kaminsky has become a media favorite because of his personality and dry sense of humor. While he likes goofing around, he doesn’t particularly like to do interviews.

All the talking he has had to do has been an adjustment.

“He’s handled it well,” the elder Kaminsky said. “In terms of all the individual attention, he doesn’t care one iota about it. … Frank’s focus is on his teammates and his team. That’s where it should be.”

Statistically, Kaminsky tops the Badgers in scoring (18.2 points per game), rebounding (8.0) and field goal percentage (55 percent). He is averaging a team-high 1.6 blocked shots while also shooting 39 percent (34 of 86) from 3-point range.

Match up Kaminsky with a shorter, quicker player and he posts up for a bucket. Guard him with a big man and Kaminsky can move outside to shoot the 3 or drive into the lane.

Put a double team on Kaminsky and he will adjust and find the open shooter. It’s no wonder Kaminsky is drawing raves.

Coach Bo Ryan likes the way he has handled the notoriety.

“Shows how grounded he is. You guys have heard me say this 100 times. I go back to your parents and first teachers and he obviously got some pretty good advice as he was being raised,” Ryan said.

“He really likes his teammates, he likes his classmates, he likes the campus,” Ryan added. “What a joy to know that there are people like that out there in this athletic world.”

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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