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Badgers’ Title Hopes May Rest in Hands of Hero Born of Necessity and Talent

LOS ANGELES — As a youngster flourishing adult in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Bronson Koenig spent so many time sharpened hoops during a internal YMCA that he was mostly teased with a same question.

“Do we have a bed in a back?”

Some days, when he satisfied his son wouldn’t be returning home for lunch, Paul Koenig stopped by a trickery with ham sandwiches and watermelon slices. When a pickup games stretched into a evenings, Paul returned with lax change so Bronson could buy snacks from a vending machine.

“It was improved than sharpened in my driveway,” Bronson said. “The round would always go out into a street, so my father would have to put adult cones for cars to expostulate around.”

Koenig paused.

“Plus,” he said, “at a Y, there were always people to play against, always guys that could make we better.”

The work ethic Koenig displayed during an early age usually extended as he grew older. That’s because no one who’s followed his career is astounded to see Koenig where he is today: a starting indicate ensure for a Wisconsin patrol usually dual wins divided from a second true Final Four.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers—the No. 1 seed in a West Region—play No. 4 seed North Carolina Thursday night during a Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“Bronson is one of a biggest reasons we’re here,” pronounced comparison Josh Gasser, who plays alongside Koenig in a Wisconsin backcourt. “He got thrown into a glow a small some-more fast than he expected, yet he didn’t flinch.”

Indeed, Koenig entered a deteriorate as a backup to starter Traevon Jackson, one of a heroes of final season’s Final Four run. Jackson, though, harmed his right feet in a Jan. 11 detriment to Rutgers and hasn’t played since.

Losing a third-year starter—especially a indicate guard—would fleece many teams, yet Wisconsin didn’t skip a beat. Thanks to Koenig, a Badgers might have indeed gotten better.

Wisconsin is 18-1 altogether given Koenig became a starter, with a usually reversal entrance in a 59-53 detriment during Maryland. He is averaging 12.0 points during that camber and has left 43-of-95 (45.3 percent) from three-point range. Even some-more considerable is that he’s averaging usually one turnover each 29.8 minutes.

All of it has resulted in Wisconsin braggadocio a country’s tip offense. According to KenPom.com, a Badgers normal a national-best 124.9 points per 100 per possessions.

Clearly, Wisconsin is fit with Koenig using a point.

Jackson is slated to lapse to a justice conflicting North Carolina, yet Koenig has a stranglehold on a starting position for a rest of a season.

The 6’4″ Koenig pronounced he was assured he was adult for a plea when Jackson went down in January.

“At initial we was like, ‘OK, we can do this,'” Koenig said. “Then we started feeling vigour for a few days. It was a multiple of everything. But once we stepped on a building for my initial diversion as a starter, we felt comfortable.

Nati Harnik/Associated Press

“Overall, we consider I’ve finished flattering well.”

There was a time not prolonged ago when Koenig would’ve likely he’d be on a conflicting dais for Thursday’s diversion between a Badgers and Tar Heels.

North Carolina—along with Wisconsin, Duke and Kansas—was among a heaviest suitors for Koenig entering his comparison deteriorate of high school. He played on a same AAU group as North Carolina youth J.P. Tokoto. And a sharpshooter pronounced he grown such a tighten attribute with manager Roy Williams that, when he eventually motionless to pointer with a Badgers, he didn’t have a bravery to tell Williams.

Williams, who finally perceived a phone call from Koenig 3 months after his commitment, apparently doesn’t reason a grudge.

“I desired him as a child and we desired him as a player,” Williams said. “I wanted him badly. we pulled for him like crazy (this season) and I’ll lift for him like crazy (Thursday). we usually won’t lift for his whole group to do well.

“But he’s a big-time immature male that we unequivocally enjoyed recruiting.”

Like a lot of players recruited by an in-state power, a captivate of staying tighten to home was too clever for Koenig to ignore. But a event to contest in front of family members and friends wasn’t a usually reason he picked Wisconsin.

Koenig is partial Native American, with a bloodline on his mother’s side tracing behind centuries. As a member of a Ho-Chunk tribe, Koenig was prepared about his birthright during his childhood and mostly attended pow-wows nearby Black River Falls.

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

As he grew older, Koenig became a purpose indication for Native Americans, who, according to an essay in Sports Illustrated, have an towering high propagandize castaway rate and onslaught with health issues such as binge celebration and diabetes.

Athletic success, generally during an chosen level, is rare, a essay states.

“All of a sudden,” Koenig said, “I was going to pow-wows and kids were seeking for my designation and wanting to take cinema with me. On amicable media, people were tweeting during me and promulgation me good messages on Facebook.

“It’s good to know that we have a support of a whole republic of people.”

Wisconsin officials pronounced they’ve perceived an contentment of requests from Native American groups seeking for Koenig to speak. While he’s postulated some of them, there simply isn’t adequate time to get to them all.

Especially deliberation what lies ahead.

As many as he’s embraced a pedestal that comes along with being a Wisconsin player, Koenig’s categorical concentration is running a Badgers to an NCAA title. They came tighten final deteriorate before Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison busted their dreams with a three-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining. The shot valid to be a disproportion in a 74-73 NCAA semifinal loss.

The reversal has driven Wisconsin all deteriorate and will positively be on the mind this week in Los Angeles, where a feat Thursday would mortar them into an Elite Eight matchup with possibly Arizona or Xavier on Saturday.

For that to happen, Koenig will have to be during his best.

Just like he has been given January.

“There’s a large disproportion between personification 15 mins a diversion and 38 mins game,” Gasser said, “but Bronson hasn’t missed a beat. Sometimes we have to remind him of how many certainty we have in him.

“I’m not certain he realizes usually how good of a actor he’s become.”


Jason King covers college sports for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.


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