There is a natural assumption that any top-ranked high school basketball player in Wisconsin with a Badgers scholarship offer should possess otherworldly scoring talent that validates such a lofty recruiting status. Take, for example, the senior-season scoring averages of the last five No. 1 in-state players who earned a UW offer:
- 2018: Whitnall’s Tyler Herro (32.9 points)
- 2015: Dominican’s Diamond Stone (24.4 points)
- 2014: Milwaukee Hamilton’s Kevon Looney (27.9 points)
- 2013: Onalaska’s Matt Thomas (28.3 points)
- 2012: Sheboygan Lutheran’s Sam Dekker (35.2 points)
Of course, not every top-ranked player is built the same, which brings us to Racine Park forward Nobal Days. Days, a 6-foot-9, 195-pound junior, holds a Badgers offer and is regarded as the No. 1 player in Wisconsin for the 2019 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports composite. Yet it is no guarantee that Days will average double figures in scoring during his senior season.
Unlike many of his predecessors, Days’ offensive game is a work in progress and continues to evolve. During his recently completed junior season, he averaged 6.6 points per game and connected on 33.7 percent of his field-goal attempts (66 of 196 shots). Days made 30.0 percent of his 3-point tries and shot 52.1 percent from the foul line.
So, why all the fuss over Days?
“You can’t teach some of the things that he does,” Racine Park boys basketball coach Jim Betker said. “The kids around here love playing with him just because he’s so unselfish. I know a lot of times people are looking for maybe a high-scoring type of kid. But this kid’s a stat stuffer.
“I look at him as kind of a point-forward. He handles the ball well for his size, and his basketball IQ is extremely high. He is a 4.3 GPA student with high character. Sometimes they call him ‘The Mayor’ around here. Everybody loves him around school and in the community.”
While Days’ scoring numbers might be a source of consternation to some, everything else he brings to the floor makes him a premier prospect.
Days has averaged at least 10 rebounds per game in each of his first three high school seasons. Last season, he averaged 12.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.3 blocked shots and 1.8 steals. During Racine Park’s 68-67 victory against Milwaukee Hamilton in December, Days recorded a rare quadruple-double. His final stat line: 10 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 blocks.
“He’s truly the epitome of a pass-first kid, which kills me as his dad because I want to see some points on the board,” said Nobal’s father, Al Days. “But what is just in his DNA is he is a facilitator, and he even calls himself that: a facilitator. He likes the ball to come through him so he can get it to the person in the best scoring position. And I think coaches see that. Although when coaches call and they look at the stats or ask for stats, Nobal is never in your top one, two, three, four when it comes to scoring.”
Nobal Days, for his part, said he recognizes he needs to continue to sharpen his offensive skill set and is “still figuring out how to get that through my brain.”
“I like being able to do a lot of different things because I’m not the best scorer on the team,” Nobal said. “So I like being able to create for the rest of my teammates and then just do all the other things to affect the game.
“I’m trying to spread out my game where I can shoot from the wings, the free-throw line and the corners, the 3. I work on a lot of attacking moves, driving and getting to the basket and first-step moves. Hopefully that will come in the future, and hopefully I’ll figure out how to balance out the two.”
Nobal Days highlights
Days is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 10 power forward in the country for his class. He holds 10 scholarship offers: Wisconsin, Marquette, Boston College, DePaul, Illinois, Kansas State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Tulane and UNLV. Several other programs have expressed interest, such as Iowa, Notre Dame, Purdue, Stanford and Virginia.
Wisconsin has not signed a No. 1 player in the state since Dekker in 2012. Thomas went to Iowa State, Looney to UCLA and Stone to Maryland. Stevens Point’s Sam Hauser (2016) and Milwaukee Riverside’s Terrence Lewis (2017) were not offered scholarships, as the Badgers pursued other prospects.
Herro was committed to Wisconsin for 13 months but ultimately de-committed and signed with Kentucky. That de-commitment left a significant void in Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class, which makes the program’s efforts with Days in 2019 appear even more important.
Wisconsin offered Days a scholarship in September 2016 and has built strong relationships with the family. Former Badgers assistant coach Lamont Paris originally was the main recruiting contact before he left to become coach at Chattanooga. Assistant coach Howard Moore now occupies that spot, but Al Days noted coach Greg Gard has taken on an even greater role in Nobal’s recruitment.
“Marquette and Wisconsin came right after each other,” Al Days said. “But since then, it’s kind of gotten cloudy because now you’ve got a lot of interest. … When it comes to schools, of course Wisconsin is a great school and their coaching staff has been very receptive and very responsive in showing interest with Nobal. I think that it is important that we keep that flow of information going back and forth with each other.”
Wisconsin’s coaching staff has sold the value of the university’s academics to the Days family. Nobal said he wants to major in business marketing while also studying culinary arts so he can some day own a restaurant. He takes several advanced high school courses, and Betker said Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale are potential options.
But one of the Badgers’ major selling points on the floor has been the program’s ability to develop prospects over time. Al Days cited Frank Kaminsky, a lightly recruited center who went on to earn national Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2015.
“The thing with them is, ‘You know what? This is what we do at Wisconsin is we make kids better,'” Al Days said. “And they do. They make bigs better. You look at Frank the Tank. It went from like, ‘Who is this kid?’ to ‘Wow.’ Nobody knew where he came from. And the next thing you know, he’s an NBA player. They develop players.”
Added Nobal: “It’s a classic Big Ten school. They’re known worldwide. Everybody knows the Badgers from Kaminsky and Dekker and all them. It has the history for sure. It’s a pretty good school, to say the least.”
Nobal Days has not yet begun to narrow down his list of schools and is instead gearing up for his summer AAU season. Days returned this weekend from a successful tryout in Minnesota to join the prestigious Howard Pulley program in the Nike EYBL. Days said he was looking forward to showcasing his versatility as a power forward and representing the Midwest on a national stage.
Al Days said he would like to have all of Nobal’s official visits done no later than football season. That means once the AAU season winds down, Nobal will have a big decision to make.
“I don’t want to sound cliché, but everybody has an equal chance,” Nobal Days said. “Just with me, my family, I talk to Grandma, too. We’ll see what schools make the list.”
“Hopefully I know where I’m going before senior year starts. I want to try to pick a school by the end of the AAU season and the summertime. I don’t know how I’m going to go through the criteria of picking a school. But somehow, however that does work, I want to dwindle down the list and pick a school.”