He said he wanted to win a state championship his senior year, just like “everybody else.”
Although he didn’t directly clarify who “everybody else” was, it seemed clear that Aquinas senior point guard Bronson Koenig was referring to his future teammates on the Wisconsin Badgers, freshman forward Sam Dekker and freshman guard Zak Showalter, who both captured state titles in Wisconsin a year ago.
Koenig, a top recruit who chose Wisconsin over offers from Duke and North Carolina, returned to the state’s biggest stage in high school hoops for the first time since his sophomore year.
Even though the first game Koenig played, a Division 3 Semifinal against Little Chute Friday afternoon, was at 9 a.m., the Kohl Center was packed to see a glimpse of the electric playmaker.
“I really appreciated all the fan support from Wisconsin and Aquinas fans,” Koenig said. “It was exciting to get a quick start to the Kohl Center and get used to the baskets and the high ceilings and the atmosphere. It was really exciting.”
Having a reputation for outstanding court vision and highlight reel passes, the senior point guard did not disappoint, wowing the Kohl Center crowd with a variety of skilled dribble moves and no-look passes in traffic.
One highlight reel moment came when Koenig got out on a fast break, faking a behind-the-back pass only to dish the ball over his head to a cutting teammate, making even the neutral fans in the seats erupt in cheers. It was just one of Koenig’s four assists on the afternoon as the senior finished with 14 points.
Little Chute struggled throughout the game to contain Koenig’s penetration in the lane, as the team found its man-to-man defense unable to prevent the quick point guard from reaching the paint. When they did try to cut him off, Koenig showed range, hitting two of his five three-point attempts in the 61-51 win for Aquinas.
“People see his passing, people see his shooting … he has a lot of responsibility,” Aquinas head coach Rick Schneider said. “He does it all. Every aspect of his game is dynamite and that’s what makes him so special. He didn’t specialize in one thing, he does it all.”
Koenig also impressed Little Chute’s head coach Mickey Martin with his performance, as the coach offered high praise for the guard after his team’s loss.
“I’ll say Bronson Koenig is the real deal,” Martin said. “There is a reason why [Wisconsin head coach] Bo [Ryan] has him coming here to play at the Kohl Center for the next few years.”
In the Saturday championship game against Lodi, however, Koenig did not look like the same dynamic creator off the dribble that had just taken the floor just more than 24 hours earlier. He said some of his teammates had been sick but wouldn’t admit to being sick himself.
One thing was for sure, Koenig struggled to keep his breath. Sometimes he was seen holding his sides and taking labored breaths. At others, Koenig just looked a step slower than a day earlier.
“It is draining, playing at 9 a.m. the first game yesterday and waking up and a lack of sleep and everything,” Koenig said after the championship game. “In the beginning I couldn’t catch my breath at all because I have asthma but I don’t know if it was that or nerves or anything. I had pretty good energy levels; I started catching my second wind in the third and fourth quarters.”
The wear-and-tear showed in his play, as the senior turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter, triggering a 16-0 run by Lodi that almost cost Aquinas their 19 point lead.
But, showing the toughness that Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan makes a prerequisite when recruiting talent to his team, Koenig grinded out any physical maladies and scored 16 points, including two crucial free throws to lead Aquinas to the 53-48 win over Lodi.
It was the best ending possible for Koenig, who also won the state championship his sophomore year. After having his title hopes derailed a year ago by medical issues, the UW recruit ended his senior year, like “everybody else,” a champion at the Kohl Center.
“I just feel like I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a gym with him for four years,” Schneider said. “I’ve watched him evolve as a player and a person. I think Wisconsin is so lucky to get him because he’s going to be a great leader for them.
“He’s ready for that, and I’ve seen him grow into that role. He’s got a bright future. The sky is the limit for him.”