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Still fueled by last season, 'ceiling-less' Badgers poised for big things in 2024

Badgers standout and Neenah native Max Klesmit believes the veteran-led Wisconsin squad has the right pieces and the "mentality" to win a conference title... and maybe more.
Posted at 7:17 PM, Jan 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-19 20:17:28-05

MADISON, Wis. (NBC 26) — The minute last season ended - in the NIT semifinals - the Badgers were already motivated for 2024.

"The amount of guys that we did return from last year, a lot of those guys have that same feeling," Badgers junior guard Max Klesmit, a Neenah native, said in a one-on-one interview with NBC 26. "(We all had) that same painful feeling of not going to the (NCAA) tournament."

Wisconsin returned its top five scorers from last year's squad. Early this season, that veteran group has put the country on notice.

The Badgers are 13-4, ranked No. 11 in the nation, and - despite a loss on Tuesday - still on top of the Big Ten.

"I think we've put ourselves in a pretty good position to start the season," Klesmit said. "We've given ourselves a lot of confidence early on.

"I think the difference is the mentality that this team carries itself with and prides itself on," he added. "Every day you're going to have to bring it."

That mentality is inspired by last year's holdovers, but it's a newcomer who's made the difference.

Sophomore guard A.J. Storr, a transfer from St. John's, leads the team at 15.3 points per game.

"There's not many people in the country that have that athleticism," Klesmit said of his new teammate.

Since the two met over the summer, Klesmit and Storr have become close, with the elder Klesmit saying they drive each other to become better.

"He's a great kid," Klesmit said. "He works super hard at his craft. He's respectful of the game and cherishes every moment he steps out here on this court.

"It's been a blessing being able to meet AJ Storr," he added.

With Storr in tow, the Badgers boast one of the best offenses in college basketball. As of Friday, they rank No. 22 in offensive efficiency and average nearly 76 points per game, a mark not even the Final Four teams in 2014 and '15 reached.

It's only January, but Klesmit believes this group is capable of something special.

"I'd say we're pretty ceiling-less in terms of our ability," he said. "It's not going to take any super heroes. It's just going to take the consistent grind. Showing up every day ready to go.

"Just being who we are," Klesmit added. "I think that will help us out in the long run of things."

Klesmit is averaging nine points per game and has scored at least ten points in four of his last five games.

Last week, he reached 1,000 career points and called it "an honor" to do it in a Badgers uniform.