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A Hoops Q&A with Badgers Point Guard Bronson Koenig

Wisconsin Baller! A Q&A with University of Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig

University of Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig (Ho-Chunk) took the college basketball world by storm last season in guiding the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament Championship game, where they fell to Duke, 68-63. The 6-foot-4 junior from Lacrosse, Wisconsin, will be relied upon heavily this season.

Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 17 in the country, saw two of its players leave for the NBA following last season. On Tuesday November 17th, it was announced that Koenig, who is averaging 19 points, 3.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds through three games, is on the preseason Wooden Award watch list, one of college basketball’s top individual honors.

In a phone interview with ICTMN, Koenig talked about his dreamcatcher tat, working with teammates and whether he was named after Charles Bronson.

First off, what does it feel like to get back out on the court?

It feels great. I couldn’t wait. Especially after the past two seasons we’ve had [The Badgers lost in the Final Four to Kentucky in 2014]. We got a nice little break, nice little rest, and we started practice really in the summer. It was just nice to get out there and play against somebody in a different jersey.

Due to injuries [to last year’s point guard Traevon Jackson and center Frank Kaminsky], you stepped in and started 24 games, helping Wisconsin to the national championship game. Talk about that ride.

I was starting to feel comfortable, getting in the flow [after Frank suffered a concussion]. Then Traevon went down. I didn’t expect him to be hurt like that [against Rutgers on Jan. 11]. That night or the next morning I heard he broke his foot, so it was kind of a surprise to me. My coach called me and told me I would take over starting point guard. I knew I was ready. I did what I could to lead us to the national championship.

During that run to the national championship, did you feel any support from the Native American community?

Definitely. They always reach out to me via social media or however they can.

What was the atmosphere like in the locker room before the Final Four game against an undefeated and massively hyped Kentucky team ­– one that had defeated your team in the same circumstance the year prior?

Honestly, we were pretty confident … more confident than people probably think. With all the talk of them being the best team in college basketball history, we knew what we had to do to win. We were ready to get revenge and that’s what we did.

Duke was a team you’d seen at home in the regular season. They ended your team’s undefeated streak to start the season. How did you feel entering the national championship game against them?

We were definitely ready to play against them again. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on the winning side.

University of Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig (Ho-Chunk) - Courtesy Photo

Without Kaminsky and Sam Dekker [who were taken in the NBA draft at picks No. 9 and 18, respectively], what are the strengths of this year’s team?

I’d say we’re still trying to figure that out because we have so much youth and inexperience. Right now we’re still trying to establish an identity. It’s still too early to tell.

How has Coach Ryan gotten the most out of you as a player?

He’s always pushed me. He’s great at doing that to his players: pushing them to be great, just kind of challenging you in subtle ways in practice or in games. He kind of puts the brunt of the whole game on his point guard’s shoulders to really run the team, be the quarterback to call plays and a bunch of little things.

You were named as one of the most surprising players of last season. You’re picked this preseason to win some awards. How much do you pay attention to the media?

Not much at all. I see it because people tweet it at me. I don’t really care about preseason awards whatsoever. But I’m happy people are finally starting to recognize me.

University of Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig (Ho-Chunk) - Courtesy Photo

What would you like to achieve in your final two seasons of eligibility?

Well I definitely want to become the winningest Badger point guard or player ever. I’m looking to keep on winning, keep that tradition alive and be the best player I can be.

Outside of basketball, what do you hope to achieve with your degree [in community and non-profit leadership]?

After basketball, I really want to make an impact on Native American communities, speak to Native American youth about what they can do to better their lives.

Is it every Wisconsin kid’s dream to play for Bo Ryan?

I would hope so. Especially after the last two seasons we had. It was definitely my dream.

Let’s get into some fun questions. Are you named after Charles Bronson?

The actor. Yeah.

The giant dreamcatcher tattoo with a bear paw on your left side. Is that symbolic or were you just honoring your Native heritage?

I really wanted to get a tattoo, but I wanted it to have a lot of meaning. I wanted it to represent my heritage as a Bear Clan member [of the Ho-Chunk].

Growing up off the reservation, what did you know or learn about your Ho-Chunk background?

I know a little bit, but not too much, because the public school system doesn’t really teach much about Native American history, which is pretty bad if you ask me.