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Zak Showalter version 2.0: College life begins in Madison

Germantown all-stater earns scholarship

June 25, 2012

The best moment of the many emotionally charged moments that went on in the last two weeks for the basketball-bound Showalter family of Germantown was the one the son didn't speak of but one the father couldn't help but rhapsodize about.

It was June 18, just a few days past a few historic events for the family. All-stater and two-time NOW Player of the Year Zak Showalter, fresh off leading the Warhawks to their first-ever state title in March, formally moved up from preferred walk-on status at Wisconsin to full scholarship due to someone else leaving the program.

"It's nice," Zak said. "Paying for all that side stuff (books, food, etc.) would have been a pain. Now not having to worry about it is something I'm just very grateful for. I really appreciate it, and I hope to earn it."

And it was something that his father and Germantown coach Steve Showalter was also appreciative of. Not just for the ease that it'll place on he and his wife Jill's pocketbook, but for the air of legitimacy it lends to his 6-2 jumping jack of a son, whose raw intensity and love of basketball is matched only by that of his father.

As is well-known, Steve played for Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, 30 years ago, back when Ryan was just getting his feet wet at UW-Platteville and used Steve as a foundation for establishing the Pioneers as an NCAA Division III national power.

And now 30 some years later, Steve's son is playing for Ryan on the Division I level at Wisconsin.

"We were hoping and praying that this would happen," Steve said. "Just hoping that we would get that call. They came on Tuesday night (June 12). We both got calls from Bo telling us (that he got the scholarship). Zak was still in town, so we went to the Dairy Queen to celebrate (laughs)."

A nod of respect

Then the father got serious.

"It isn't really about the money," Steve said. "It's more that it tells everyone that he is a legitimate D-I player. It was tough reading 'walk-on this and walk-on that' all the time. He's officially legitimate and should be for all he's done."

Just in time to receive the full Bo Ryan treatment. Steve has tried to indoctrinate Zak into what he will be getting himself into when he's officially coached by Ryan, but noted that it's something he's just going to have to experience for himself.

"I've shared some Bo stories," Steve said. "He's not going to be the same crazy, wild-eyed 38-year-old that he was (30 years ago) diving on the floor and showing everyone how it's done. He was bound and determined to turn things around there that very first year (at Platteville) and he's still got that energy and enthusiasm that he did then.

"… And he's still going to use anything he can to motivate people. He sometimes uses more fatherly and grandfatherly approaches as opposed to getting in your face. But you will do it his way or you won't be around much longer. It's something all of us go through.

"Zak thinks he knows everything there is to know about basketball, but he'll find out that it's very little compared to what he (Ryan) knows."

But for now, Zak's just soaking in everything his new life has to offer.

After the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches' Association High School All-Star Classic on June 16 in Wisconsin Dells, which marked Zak's final official high school competition, he made a quick transformation into a college student. The family drove to Madison the next day and checked him into the athletic dorm.

It was a Father's Day Steve said he will not forget and a day and a moment that dad and not coach Steve said was a lot harder on him than it was on Zak.

"…There were tears in both Jill and my eyes," Steve said of the parting.

Zak'll be rooming with fellow freshman and state player of the year Sam Dekker out of Sheboygan Lutheran, who was in Brazil at the time with the U.S. Junior National team. He exchanged those tearful goodbyes with mom and dad and then with his lifelong friends, point guard Josh Mongan and center Dan Studer, who are headed elsewhere.

"It was tough saying goodbye to Josh and Smooth (Studer), that was among the hardest part of this all, because I've been with them almost every day since fifth grade," Zak said. "Literally all day, every day each summer, doing countless different things.

"I was prepared for the family (to say goodbye) but that was hard. But it is the next step. It was time to move on."

Summer school first

And he did. He's enrolled in two classes (six credits worth) this summer and entered the world of the college student immediately. He's on a strict schedule, weightlifting from 6:45-8:15 a.m. every day, then three hours of class and then open gym.

On Tuesday mornings in the summer, there is an official two-hour practice with the staff, including Ryan.

So he's off and running as a semi-independent young adult and college student.

"I like it," he said. "It's different and it's fun."

And it became a lot easier in the middle of last week, when mom sent over a bicycle to help negotiate the rolling hills of the gorgeous lake-bound UW campus.

"I think I had to walk something like 10 miles (laughs) that first day before I got it," Zak chuckled. "I was pretty exhausted. I just told mom I really need a bike. Now it's a lot easier getting to class, because that first day of walking, man, I was dripping sweat (more laughs)."

Which brings us to the melodramatic sports movie moment that Zak had on June 18.

All the goodbyes were past, he was settled into his dorm and according to Steve, Zak just had an opportunity that all young college basketball players think about a lot.

"He thought about it and so walked up to the Kohl Center (where Germantown won its state title and where Wisconsin plays all its home games) and found the backdoor open," Steve said. "He found his locker, found a ball and just went out there shooting all by himself (on the main floor).

"It's every Wisconsin kid's (player) dream to do something like that. He just took it all in and was just amazed (by the sensation)."

One of probably many amazing sensations still to come for him.

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