After landing the state's top player in 2012 in Sheboygan Area Lutheran forward Sam Dekker, the Wisconsin head coach and his coaching staff landed one of the top 2013 points guard in the Midwest when La Crosse Aquinas point guard Bronson Koenig gave his verbal commitment to play for the Badgers on Sept. 24.
It was a huge victory for Ryan and Company, and a big relief for Koenig, who had been heavily recruited since early 2010.
"It's really relieving that I don't have to call coaches every single night and worry about all the stress that comes with the process," Koenig told Badger Nation. "I can work on my junior and senior year of basketball and get as good as I can get by lifting weights and building my strength."
Koenig – a 6-3 four-star recruit ranked the No.18 shooting guard in the country by Scout.com – picked Wisconsin over North Carolina, his other finalist, and offers from Duke, Kansas, Marquette and Virginia because the Badgers simply provided everything Koenig was looking for in a college choice. Still, it wasn't always that clear.
Wisconsin offered Koenig in June 2010 and had an inside track on his recruitment until North Carolina entered the picture. With coach Roy Williams and one of his assistants coming to the Wisconsin Exposure Classic last summer to watch future Tar Heels commit J.P. Tokoto, Williams noticed Koenig versatility, superior court vision, speed and outside shooting ability. That led to North Carolina offering last February and putting more pressure on his decision.
"(My former AAU coach) Ritchie Davis told me that I should commit right away (to Wisconsin) after I got the offer, but I wanted to see what other offers I could get," Koenig said. "One of my assistant coaches for the Playground Warriors told Coach Williams that they should watch me in the championship game. They talked to me from that point on and gave me a scholarship when I visited. After the offer, I wanted to go there."
As Koenig let the offer sink in, however, the pros of playing for Wisconsin seemed to outweigh the positives North Carolina offered. Koenig never went back for another unofficial visit to Chapel Hill and has consistently made the drive to Madison for Saturday football games.
"There were a lot of factors that went into it, especially playing with Sam my whole AAU season," Koenig said of Dekker, a four-star recruit ranked the No.6 shooting forward in the 2012 class. "Sam kept talking to me about staying close to home and playing with him. We are really close and just visiting with him, it just feels right. I like being close to home and I love Madison."
The fact that Ryan and associate head coach Greg Gard put in to watching Koenig was also a definite factor. Koenig estimated that at least one coach from Wisconsin was at every one of his games with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors over the past two seasons and both coaches were at his open gym earlier this month.
"It definitely influenced my decision," Koenig said. "They were my first big offer and they didn't miss an AAU game of mine in two years while they were recruiting me. That definitely says a lot, and showed how much they wanted me." Koenig led Aquinas to a 27-1 record and the WIAA Division 3 state championship as a sophomore when he averaged 17.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and nearly 3.0 assists per game, stats that add another solid point guard into Ryan's swing offense.
"Coach Ryan pretty much told me that I would have the green light to do what I wanted, which is what he gave Devin Harris when he was playing and what he has given Jordan Taylor right now," Koenig said. "That means a lot that he trusts me."
Committing to Wisconsin isn't the only change in Koenig's basketball life. After his team's inconsistent play over the AAU season and too many off-the-court issues, Koenig has switched AAU programs, leaving the Playground Warriors for the talented Wisconsin Swing, which has Division 1 recruits Nick Fuller (Sun Prairie), Luke Fischer (Germantown) and Cody Wichmann (Pulaski) already on the roster.
"During the later part of the season, we weren't winning as much, we were losing close games and I played with Nick in eighth grade and we were really good," Koenig said. "We had a bad loss in Las Vegas and that was enough for me. I just felt I needed a change. Luke and Nick are great players and we just want to be the best team and have a lot of fun."
Although he has two years of high school remaining, Koenig doesn't plan on easing into the college game. Approaching the season with the goal of winning another state championship and becoming a well-rounded player, Koenig wants to put himself in position to start contributing the minute he officially joins the Wisconsin program.
"I really want to improve every part of my game, especially finishing above the rim and in the lane," Koenig said. "Since I have been lifting, I am starting to dunk consistently, but I want to be able to finish in traffic and get my body lower to the ground so I can go by people that are stronger than me."
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