Herd hopes to make playoff run


Katie Pulvermacher / the Advance-Titan — Wisconsin Herd’s Brandon Randolph drives to the basket in Friday’s 115-110 loss to the Windy City Bulls on opening night at the Oshkosh Arena.

Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

After a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, the Wisconsin Herd will look to contend for the NBA G League playoffs during the 2022-23 season which kicked off Nov. 4 at the Oshkosh Arena.

Coach Chaisson Allen said he expects the team to play fast, shoot a lot of three-pointers and crash the offensive boards.

“We’ve done that well so far, so on the defensive end we just need to clean some things up and we’ll win a lot of games,” he said.

Last season the Herd finished 14th in the Eastern Conference of the G League with a record of 8-24, the second worst in the entire league.

The 2021-22 season did feature high points for the Herd, with the team finishing the year with eight players called up to the NBA. Rayjon Tucker and Wenyen Gabriel were both converted to full-time contracts in the NBA, with Gabriel returning to the NBA again this season.

The Herd was awarded the Inaugural President’s Choice Award for last season, which, according to the G League, is given to a team that embodies what all G League teams should strive to be. Wisconsin was recognized for outstanding ticket sales, sponsorship success, promotional creativity, social responsibility participation, digital and social engagement, league initiative participation and team staffing levels.

This year the Herd have revamped their lineup, with only three returning players from the previous season.

Guard Lindell Wigginton returns to the Herd for a second season after averaging 17.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in the 2021-22 season. A native of Canada, Wigginton played in 19 games for the Milwaukee Bucks under a two-way contract last season and played in all five NBA preseason games for Milwaukee. Wigginton also played for the Bucks Summer League team, leading Milwaukee in points (18.2) and assists (4.6) per game.

Wigginton said he really enjoyed playing for the Bucks last season.

“It was a great experience because that was the team that gave me my first shot in the NBA, so I am very appreciative of them,” he said. “It was a blessing because it was always my goal to get to the NBA.”

Forward Sandro Mamukelashvili returns to the Herd for a second season under a two-way contract, which is where a player signs a guaranteed deal and can play for both an NBA team and their G-League affiliate. NBA teams are allowed just two two-way contracts throughout the season. Last year with Wisconsin, Mamukelashvili averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds in 12 regular-season games.

With the Bucks last season, Mamukelashvili appeared in 41 games averaging 3.8 points and two rebounds per game. He also played for the Bucks 2022 NBA Summer League team, averaging 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds while being named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team.

Wigginton said playing the NBA Summer League is a great experience.

“I learned to just be patient in the game,” he said. “You need to be able to play your role and be patient with the game.”

The other two-way player the Herd has is guard A.J. Green, who joined Wisconsin after going undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft. Green, who appeared in all five 2022 NBA preseason games for Milwaukee, played with Mamukelashvili on the Bucks Summer League team, averaging seven points in five games.

One of the biggest names to join the Herd this season is Alex Antetokounmpo, the youngest brother of Milwaukee’s Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Alex, who played basketball at Dominican High School, was acquired by the Herd through a trade with Raptors 905 during the off-season.  Last season, Alex played in 15 games with Raptors 905 and appeared in the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge with his older brothers.

Another player to join the Herd this season is 7’1’’ center Ibou Badji. Born in Dakar, Senegal, Badji played for his national team in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup, averaging 6.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. Badji, who trained with NBA Academy Africa, had a 7’6’’ wingspan at age 15 and played with Forca Lleida CE in Spain last year, averaging 8.2 points per game.

The Herd selected forward Joe Wieskamp with the second overall pick in the NBA G League Draft, a player who has won numerous awards in his basketball career. A two-time Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, Wieskamp was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 41st pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. He played 29 games with the Spurs last season before being released from the team on Oct. 17. Wieskamp, who was selected for All-Big Ten teams with Iowa in 2020 and 2021, averaged 2.1 points with San Antonio last year.

Returning to coach the Wisconsin Herd for his second season is Allen, the third head coach in team history. A former assistant coach for the Herd, Allen played college basketball at Northeastern University before playing professional basketball overseas for various European teams.

“I just want the team to win as many games as possible and, individually, just be better than last year,” Wigginton said.

The Herd lost their first regular season game to the Windy City Bulls 115-110 Friday before taking down the Bulls the next day 112-102. Wisconsin has a four game homestand starting Wednesday when they take on the Cleveland Charge on back-to-back nights. The Herd then take on the Motor City Cruise Nov. 12 and Nov. 15 at the Oshkosh Arena.