Tyler Wahl was in the fifth grade when, after some encouragement from his family, he jotted down 10 goals he wanted to achieve in his life.
The first item on the list was to get good grades and, from there, the list transitioned toward athletics. He wanted to play basketball and be good enough to make a select travel team. Eventually, he wanted to play in high school.
The middle part of the list shifted toward college, where Wahl set his sights on getting a scholarship to play basketball. He even had a specific destination in mind.
No. 7 on his chart: Wisconsin.
Wahl took one big step toward making that dream a reality on Wednesday morning when he signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team starting next season.
The 6-foot-7 forward from the Minneapolis area will be the Badgers’ only fall signee in their 2019 class. In Wahl, UW landed a versatile, two-way player who also had scholarship offers from Minnesota, Iowa State, Northwestern and Butler, among others.
Wahl averaged 17.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.9 blocks while helping Lakeville North go 27-5 and reach the Minnesota Class AAAA state semifinals last season.
“Fans will enjoy the energy and passion with which he plays,” UW coach Greg Gard said of Wahl in a statement. “He comes from a winning high school program and knows what it takes to compete for championships. Tyler has a skill set matched with great athleticism that has us excited to work with him, and to help him reach his potential as a Badger.”
Wahl’s love for the Badgers started about a decade ago while his oldest sister was playing at UW-La Crosse. Lindsay Wahl finished her career with the Eagles in 2009 and was a first-team All-WIAC selection her final two seasons.
One of the UW players Tyler Wahl grew up watching was Joe Krabbenhoft, who’s now an assistant with the Badgers and served as the primary recruiter in the program’s pursuit of Wahl.
Gard, in his statement, noted Wahl’s “ability to play and guard multiple positions is extremely valuable with the way the game has evolved.”
Not only was Wahl typically assigned the opponent’s best scorer while playing on the AAU circuit, whether it was a point guard, a wing or a post player, he took it as a badge of honor.
“I’m a defensive-minded person,” he said, “and I just feel like (the Badgers) value smart basketball players who are able to grind it out on defense.”
Wahl grew up as a pass-first point guard while playing on youth travel teams coached by his father. Tim Wahl was a standout at Mankato State in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is eighth on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,530 career points.
The elder Wahl encouraged his son to get his teammates involved on offense and, of course, to value his work as a defender.
“He’ll take whatever role it takes for his team to be successful,” Tim Wahl said. “He’s just one of those guys you want on your team.”
Gard and Co. decided the same thing and offered Wahl a scholarship last April. While he could have picked the brain of UW sophomore forward Nate Reuvers, another Lakeville North product, Wahl didn’t really have to because he’d wanted to play for the Badgers for years.
Wahl visited the UW campus with family members prior to the program’s advanced camp in June and the group ended up in Gard’s office. Gard hadn’t even finished his pitch when Wahl, according to his father, interrupted him. “Coach,” he said, “I want to be a Badger.”
Then again, he’d known that since he was 11 years old.
“He’s prepared to be a Badger,” Tim Wahl said. “I think he’s going to fit really well.”