BY SAM AHRENS | Ball State Sports Link
You may have heard of Bronson Koenig if you are a college basketball fan, especially the Big Ten.
Or you may remember hearing his name last year during March Madness with his thrilling game-winning buzzer-beater against Xavier that advanced Wisconsin to the Sweet 16.
Koenig earned the nickname “Klutch Koenig” a year ago with his late-game heroics and has continued to prove that he is one of the nation’s best in critical moments.
Over the last two seasons, Koenig has gone 30-for-60 (.500) from 3-point range in the final 5:00 and overtime of games.
This season, he is 13-for-29 (.448) from long range in the final 5:00 and OT.
But there is a side of Koenig that some people may not know about. If you take off the jersey, you’ll find tribal tattoos on his chest and ribs.
This is because Koenig is a part of the Ho-Chunk tribe. Koenig is 50 percent German and 50 percent Ho-Chunk.
Since his freshman year of high school, members of his tribe would watch his games knowing the potential he possessed. While he grew as a player, he also grew as a role model for the younger kids in his tribe.
He became someone they looked up to.
Two years ago, Koenig was thrown into a leadership role when Wisconsin’s starting point guard, Traevon Jackson, injured his foot early in the season. Even though that Wisconsin team posted the best record in school history behind the works of Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, who both play now in the NBA, Koenig was the man running the team.
Since then, Koenig has fulfilled the role of a leader.
Koenig helped lead the 2015 team to a successful run in the NCAA tournament where they made it to the National Championship game before falling to Duke.
Last year, Koenig led his team to the Sweet 16 where once again, their dreams were shattered by losing in the final minutes to Notre Dame.
Fast-forward to a month before the start of the 2016-17 basketball season, Koenig made a personal decision to put a hold on practice and take a trip to help the people of his tribe.
His tribe was a part of the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.7 billion project that would transfer oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The blueprints of the project have the pipeline running through sacred Sioux burial ground and puts the local water supply at risk of contamination.
Koenig and his brother, Miles, traveled 13 hours in an 18-foot trailer to Cannon Ball, N.D. to deliver supplies to the protestors and show his support in favor of his people.
During his short visit to Cannon Ball, he planned a basketball camp at a local high school filled with young adults and little kids.
During the camp, he took time to answer questions and talk to younger kids about his life as part Ho-Chunk, part white heritage and the struggles he faced.
The next day at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, he held a small camp for kids who didn’t have the funds to attend his previous one. This one was outside on a grassy court.
Some say athletes shouldn’t use their fame to fight for social issues, but in an interview with Sports Illustrated, Koenig said its many years of suffering.
“We’ve been suffering for hundreds of years,” Koeing said. “I would die for my people if that’s what it came down to.”
Koenig is back leading the Badgers into March with a 23-8 record. Entering postseason play, he is averaging 14.2 points per game and shooting 39 percent from three-point range. He has scored in double figures 22 times this season.
The senior guard has improved his 3-point numbers during conference play. Koenig is shooting 40.2 percent during Big Ten action, hitting 41-for-102. He ranks second in the Big Ten averaging 2.6 triples per game.
With the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament looming, Koenig’s leadership and experience will be the x-factor moving forward along with the love and support of his tribe.
For more of a look inside Koenig’s trip to Cannon Ball, watch the following clip from the Big Ten Network’s “The Journey.”