Two of Indian country’s brightest basketball stars, Bronson Koenig and Derek Willis are potential members of NBA teams. Bronson Koenig (Ho-Chunk) signed with the Milwaukee Bucks and Derek Willis (Southern Arapaho, Pawnee and Creek) will get to compete for a shot with the Detroit Pistons.
Both Bronson Koenig and Derek Willis are participating in their respective NBA summer leagues, Koenig in Las Vegas and Willis in Orlando.
Detroit lost the championship game to Dallas last Thursday July 6th, 83-81. Willis averaged 3.5 points in 11 minutes per game as he tried to do enough to show the Pistons he deserves a spot on their G-League affiliate, Grand Rapids.Willis “has a great game that just may translate well to the NBA,” Fansided’s Frank Spencer wrote. “[He] is an intriguing player that has the possibility of impressing some NBA executives. But, as an undrafted free agent playing in the NBA summer league, he will have to show some major potential to make it onto a roster to begin the season.”Koenig and Milwaukee begin play July 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Las Vegas. On July 6, he signed a two-way contract with the team, which assures him a spot with the team’s G-League affiliate, Wisconsin, and allows him to be called up for 45 days.[text_ad]“Signed my first NBA contract today,” Koenig wrote in an Instagram post July 6. “Thanks to everyone who’s helped me along the way—you know who you are. Thank you to the Milwaukee Bucks organization. Don’t ever let ANYONE tell you you can’t do something.”
Koenig, 22, is a 6-foot-4 point guard who called himself the best shooter in the draft. He averaged 14.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2 assists per game last year for the University of Wisconsin. In 2015, he helped lead the team to a national championship appearance.
One analyst, Thomas Beindit of Big 10 Powerhouse, wrote “If Koenig is going to make an NBA roster, it’s going to come from his combination of perimeter shooting and quality passing. He was stellar in both as a Badger and will hope to show both at the next level.”
The 6'9" Willis, 22, averaged 7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. He was a versatile player for the University of Kentucky, due to his size and shooting ability. He left the Wildcats as the 12th most efficient 3-point shooter in the school’s history at 39.8 percent. The team was 32-5 last season, making the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.
Since 2000, nearly 500 players have moved up from the G-League (formerly D-League) to the NBA, according to Michigan Live.
The NBA summer league is for rookie, second-year and free agent players.
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent with Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum