The state of Wisconsin has been experiencing a recent surge in local talent to make the NBA, with the likes of Tyrese Haiiburton, Tyler Herro and Johnny Davis all currently on rosters. Class of 2025 big man Kai Rogers looks to carry on that legacy. At nearly 6’10” and 227 pounds with a 7’1” wingspan, Rogers only started playing basketball a few short years ago in the seventh grade. Since then, he’s transformed his body, has picked up a number of high major offers and is starting to emerge as one of the more skilled two-way bigs in his class.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Rogers discusses how he got his start in basketball, the work he put in to improve his body, the booming basketball culture in Wisconsin, his recruitment update, off-court interests, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2025 prospect Kai Rogers, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
Pro Insight: Talk about your basketball journey — how did you get to where you are today?
Kai Rogers: So I didn’t start playing basketball until about seventh grade and the only reason I started playing was because I was kinda bored and wasn’t really doing anything. I only played baseball, so after the summer I didn’t have anything to do and basketball became my winter thing to do. That’s how I got into it, really. After that I just kept playing basketball for school teams. Then one tournament an AAU coach came up to me and asked me what AAU team I play for and I didn’t know what AAU was. So he invited me to come practice on his team and that’s how I started playing basketball.
PI: Were you naturally talented at basketball from the start?
KR: I wouldn’t say I was naturally good, but I kinda felt like I knew what I was doing. I just had to get better at it.
PI: Do you still play baseball or are you solely focused on basketball?
KR: I do basketball full time now and what made me do that is realizing I have a future in this. People see something in me. And I just played baseball for fun, so that wasn’t too hard to give up.
PI: What made you fall in love with basketball?
KR: Just being with a team — a basketball team is completely different than a baseball team. A basketball team is really close…you have to be to win games. That’s what I really like about basketball, being connected with people.
PI: What are your current measurements?
KR: Last time I was measured I was 6’9.75” and my wingspan was 7’1”. I’m 227 pounds.
PI: Where does your size come from?
KR: My mom is around 6’1-2” and my grandpa on her side is 6’10” as well. So that’s where my height comes from. My dad worked out a lot so I also have good genetics with that.
PI: Did your parents or other family members also play sports?
KR: Not any that played professional sports, but my grandpa played baseball and basketball in high school as well. My dad played basketball a lot, too. I have one little brother and he plays basketball and football, but is just getting into it now. He started late like I did.
PI: Were you ever tempted to play football?
KR: Yeah, I really wanted to play when I was in fifth grade, but my mom was like “no it’s too dangerous.” Then a few years ago we went to the doctor and he was explaining how safe football actually is so she let my brother play, but I didn’t get the chance.
PI: Talk about the basketball culture in Wisconsin.
KR: Basketball culture in Wisconsin has definitely grown over the past five years because a lot of people have just gotten into the NBA. High school basketball in Wisconsin is amazing, everybody loves it and it’s very competitive if you’re in the right conference. Way up north it’s probably a little less competitive, just normal basketball. But down in western and southeastern Wisconsin, it’s really big and very competitive. Would definitely say finals in March is a big thing, sometimes they call school off for that so you can go watch the game. They’ll provide a bus for the team and student section to go.
PI: Have you gotten to know some of the current NBA players from Wisconsin?
KR: I haven’t personally, but one of my teammates, TJ Stuttley knows Johnny Davis pretty well. They’re from the same place. But I haven’t talked to him.
PI: Describe your game — what are some of your greatest strengths?
KR: My strengths are playing with my back to the basket as a post player and I have good length on defense. I can block shots easily and get to where I need to be. I’m also a very good passer and can pass the ball if I need to. If I get double-teamed I can find the open guy. I have a very soft touch. I used to be able to shoot the 3, but my form was a little crooked. Now that I’m fixing my form, I’m getting that back, too.
PI: What about some improvement areas?
KR: Definitely ball-handling. I used to be a little sketchy with my ball-handling, but I can bring it up the court now if I need to. And again, shooting is an improvement area.
PI: What would you say is an underrated aspect of your game?
KR: I’d say passing sometimes, like opposing teams don’t really expect my passes. Over the past year I’ve also lost a lot of weight, so this year it’d be my speed and agility that’s improved since losing about 50 pounds.
PI: Wow! Can you elaborate on how that happened?
KR: I used to not eat very well for being an athlete — used to eat a lot of fast food and junk food. So I had to cut that out completely for about three months to lose a bunch of weight. I got on the stationary bike a lot, did a lot of cardio and light lifting consisting of more reps. That helped me lose weight pretty fast. Then after I lost weight, in order to build more muscle, I started putting more protein back in my diet and lifting heavier weights.
PI: What clicked for you mentally when it came to changing your previous habits?
KR: It was definitely the coaches and people around me. I was fine being how I was, but they talked to me and said if I really want to do this then I need to take care of my body. Your body is important for longevity and you can’t have a bad body and have a long career. So I wanted to get the best body I could as fast as possible — well not as fast as possible, but I just wanted to get it done. I didn’t want to get to college and be behind on my body. That’s one of the problems guys can have, they get to college and they have to work on their body more than their game. So I want to get there and focus on my game and develop myself as a player.
PI: Talk about your summer with Wisconsin Playground — how was it?
KR: Playground is an amazing program, it’s been through a lot of changes, but everyone is a family there and that’s what I like about it. The start of the summer was great, we were winning our games, but I would say to start it was a little awkward for me since I was going through that weight change. I had to kinda get my feel back because I was so much lighter, but after I got comfortable it was a breeze.
PI: What are you hoping to show college coaches and scouts this season?
KR: I’m definitely going to start showing off my shot more by shooting threes more often in games. Whether I make them or not, I want to get comfortable shooting them and by the time winter comes I’ll be knocking them down.
PI: What are some of your goals for this upcoming high school season?
KR: Personal goals, I want to average 15 points since I averaged 10 points last season and 5 points is good growth. I want to average 10-12 rebounds, that should be pretty easy for me. And I’d say 8-10 blocks.
PI: What’s the latest with your recruitment?
KR: I wouldn’t say I’m interested in any particular school yet, I’m seeing what there is still. Next year is when I’ll make my decision, but I want to take it slow and get a feel for every school that I can. Offers I have right now are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Georgetown, Tennessee, Texas and Ole Miss. Those are the main ones. And out of those, I’d say Georgetown is keeping in contact with me the most.
PI: Any schools you’d like to hear from?
KR: No, I’m not really looking for any school. Whatever comes, comes.
PI: Have you taken any unofficial visits or do you have any planned?
KR: I’ve taken five unofficials, three of them being this year. I went to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State this fall. Last year I went to Notre Dame and Iowa.
PI: How surreal is it to have that many offers so far?
KR: It’s pretty unexpected for me because a couple years ago I was just playing baseball for fun. I never really had dreams of playing in the NBA. Then after this past year of me growing on social media, getting my name out there, seeing all of the articles and reading what people really think, that’s what’s really motivated me. Because other people see something in me.
PI: What type of system fits you best?
KR: I feel like a year ago it would’ve been more of a pick-and-roll team, but now a few different schemes. I can run pick-and-roll, but I could also do a five-out system if that’s what the team is doing. My ball-handling has gone up and if I need to I can take it to the basket — so either or, really.
PI: Ideally what are you looking for in a college program?
KR: I like player development because I want to be my best self. Maybe it’s selfish saying I don’t want to focus on the team that much because I know wherever I go the team is going to be close. But player development is big [for me] because I want to go to the NBA. That’s my end goal. So player development at whatever school I end up going to is big.
PI: Did you grow up watching the NBA?
KR: No I didn’t really watch that many basketball games when I was younger, I watched more baseball. That was my thing and basketball didn’t really come in until I was in eighth grade, that’s when I started watching. That’s when the Bucks were getting good and Giannis won MVP for the first time.
PI: You don’t typically see sophomores with that extensive of an offer list — when did you get your first offer?
KR: My first offer came at the beginning of the summer and I wasn’t expecting it at all. I remember after a summer league game, I came home and I had sprained my ankle so I was pretty bummed. And I got a call from my coach and he said there’s someone who wants to talk to you. I had had conversations with college coaches before, but it was a coach from Ole Miss. He asked how I was and we had a good conversation. After we hung up, he called me back a few minutes later and said, “I also got something for you, I want to offer you.” Ole Miss was my first offer and it was the best feeling that I had ever had from basketball because it showed all of my hard work was paying off and what people were saying was true.
PI: Have you always been confident or do you feed more off the positivity from others?
KR: You know when I first started playing I wasn’t very confident because I didn’t really know. I mean I liked playing basketball, it was fun and it felt like I knew what I was doing…but I wasn’t really there yet in terms of starting, I was always on the bench. Once coaches really started talking to me, that’s when I built my self-confidence and when I went to a better team and had better coaches around me is when my self-confidence really started to grow.
PI: What was it like going against nationally-ranked players for the first time on the AAU circuit?
KR: It was kind of both [eye opening & exciting], there were times where I was hanging in there and dominating. And there were times that were discouraging, where I messed up or over-thought things a little bit. So I had to really get past the over-thinking part because it’s basketball, you’re going to make mistakes. I had to throw it out the window and forget about it. If you make a mistake, then make up for it on defense the next play.
PI: Are there any players you model your game after?
KR: Yeah, I definitely like to watch Anthony Davis, he’s an exciting player to watch. Same thing with Giannis. They both have their own game, but are both very good at it. That’s why I like watching them. Anthony Davis has a similar build and playing style to me, so that’s probably my main player to watch.
PI: How do you see your on-court role evolving?
KR: I want to be as versatile as possible whether that’s at the four and some coaches have talked to me about playing the three in the future. I just want to be as versatile as possible and do as many things as I can.
PI: What motivates you to work hard?
KR: I didn’t really have any motivation before until I started seeing progress and success. My personal progress and success is what keeps motivating me. Seeing myself getting better and noticing the change over weeks, that’s what motivates me. Honestly, I like self-improvement.
PI: What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
KR: Some of the best advice I’ve received is about stuff with my body. One of my old coaches, Ritchie Davis, he was the leader of Playground Warriors, he passed away a couple years ago. He always told me, “take care of your body” because when he first got me I was overweight. He really pushed me to take care of my body and to keep pushing and don’t stop.
PI: What are some of your interests off the court? Any unique hobbies?
KR: I wouldn’t say anything unique, I like to listen to music and hang out with my friends. I like to watch basketball now, so I do that too. I really like being in the gym, me and my friends go in sometimes or we’ll go in as a team. I’m more of a low key guy, I don’t like going out in big groups, more like two or three friends. In my free time I mostly do my homework, watch movies or listen to music.
PI: Any books, movies or TV shows you’re on right now?
KR: Right now I’m reading two books, the first is the autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the second is about Edward Snowden. TV shows, I just finished Breaking Bad. A couple of my friends told me to watch it. Now I’m onto Better Call Saul. And movies, I just finished Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio, one of my favorite actors.
PI: What have you learned from both of those books?
KR: I just started both of them, but I’m further along in the Kareem book. And what I’m noticing is his childhood built him a lot to who he is. He took a lot from his younger years before high school. He talks about life coaches a lot, people who have come in and out of his life. He explains how his mom was one of his best coaches even though she wasn’t technically a coach. What he noticed and saw from her taught him about himself if that makes sense.
PI: What got you interested in those books?
KR: Honestly it was the first basketball book I saw so I picked it up. And in regards to the Snowden book, I knew there was a Snowden movie a while ago. I never saw it, but I thought about that when I saw the book, so I was like, might as well read this. And I kinda know a little bit about it, so I’d like to know more.
PI: Would you call yourself an avid reader?
KR: We have this time in English where we read for like 50 minutes, but at home I read for like 20 minutes two to three times out of the week. So a medium reader, I guess.
PI: What video games are you playing? How do you rank amongst your friends?
KR: I play NBA 2K and NFL Madden. My friends and I play head-to-head on Madden all of the time. I think we split it 50-50 most of the time [laughs]. We always get into high scoring games that are really competitive and the end of the game goes either way. Lots of yelling and stuff, too [laughs].
PI: What’s your favorite subject in school?
KR: My favorite class right now is AP Human Geography, we’re learning about populations. I just like learning about our world, I guess. I liked US History last year and I just like learning about our past. Like math, I don’t really like math class. I don’t really gain anything from it. But English, I like to read…I just like learning. I mean I’m learning in math class, but I feel like I’m learning more in history and english. It’s information I didn’t know while math is about following steps to get somewhere and I don’t really benefit from it as much.
PI: If you were to pursue a career outside of basketball, what would that be?
KR: I’d say it’d definitely be doing my own business, something entrepreneur-related. I don’t know what it’d be, but definitely a more independent job. Not really having three bosses ahead of you, I don’t want to be that guy.
PI: If you had one hashtag to describe yourself, what would that be?
KR: I guess I’d have to say #lowkey because I’m a lowkey guy. I feel like at my school a lot of people feel like they know me, but they don’t really know me because not a lot of people take the time to talk to me and get to know me. I’m also not the type of person, like as soon as I meet you, to give you my whole life story.
PI: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
KR: I hope to be in either my last year of college or a year in the NBA because the end goal is to be drafted in the NBA. I want to have a good college career and then go to the NBA. I wouldn’t say I want to go four years in college, I definitely want to do a year or two, but the NBA is my overall goal. So I hope in five or six years I’m in the NBA.
Watch Kai's full interview, here.