Two years ago, Indian Country united behind the rez ball game of Shoni Schimmel. Schimmel shocked the world in route to a Final Four appearance, where the “Umatilla Thrilla” pulled off the ultimate David vs. Goliath feat when she and her Louisville Cardinals knocked off one of the greatest female basketball player of all time, Brittney Griner, and the #1-rated Baylor Bears.
This year, Natives across the country are preparing for another March Madness run by one of our own: Ho-Chunk citizen Bronson Koenig.
In today’s world of college hoops, it is a rarity to see a team return 11 of 12 lettermen, but that is what coach Bo Ryan has done at Wisconsin. Although the highly respected coach has been successful throughout his career while compiling a record of 363-169, this season may be the best opportunity Ryan gets to win a NCAA men’s basketball national title.
Minus a small group of Native hoops aficionados who have followed the 6’4” guard since high school, Koenig, burst on to the scene last year during the men’s NCAA tournament, when his timely shooting and key defensive stops played a huge role in Wisconsin’s first trip to the Final Four. This year, Koenig is playing big minutes and the Badgers are on everyone’s short list of national title contenders.
In high school, Koenig was rated as one of ESPN’s top 100 players and as the 14th best senior point guard in the country by Rivals.com. As a senior, Koenig was named the Wisconsin Player of the Year after averaging 17.0 points and 4.0 assists a game for Aquinas High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Koenig was courted by Duke and other hoops powerhouses but to the delight of the Badger faithful, he decided to stay in-state. Koenig headlined a spectacular recruiting class for UW as he was joined by Nigel Hayes, who has developed into one of the best low-post scorers in the BIG 10.
Now, the Badgers are enjoying the fruits of that masterful recruiting season as the two super- sophomores are playing big-time minutes alongside All-American Frank Kaminsky. Although a dead-eye shooter, Koenig, has flourished in Ryan’s swing offense where he has displayed his aptitude as a distributor establishing a notable 4/1 assist to turnover ratio.
Currently, the Badgers are ranked #4 in both the Coaches and USA Today polls, and are second behind Maryland in the BIG 10.