Still Getting in the Swing

After his junior season was derailed by injury and surgery, La Crosse Aquinas senior point guard and Wisconsin commit Bronson Koenig is looking forward to building his body in preparation for his final high school season.

MADISON - Bronson Koenig felt like he was on top of the world just last September.

After winning the WIAA Division 3 state championship at La Crosse Aquinas, Koenig put the college decision making process was behind him – committing to Wisconsin on September 24 over offers from Duke, Kansas and North Carolina.

"I was feeling pretty good about where I was at," said Koenig.

Now he's a player that is still trying to find himself and build up a game that was derailed by injuries.

He suffered torn ligaments in his right thumb on Dec. 27 in a victory over Rockford (Ill.) East. That injury, coupled with the removal of his tonsils, sidelined Koenig for almost eight weeks. His first comeback failed and his second comeback ended after just two games with his team's elimination from the state playoffs.

"It was probably a mistake to come back that early," said Koenig. "I had no idea how hard it would be to get back into things 100 percent."

The injuries caused the 6-3 three-star point guard to weigh 158 pounds, roughly 20 pounds off his desired weight.

"I don't have a lot of weight to lose to begin with," said Koenig. "My right thumb was first ever injury and my tonsils coming out was really my first surgery. Those kept me out of doing stuff. It was a pretty new experience."

His last AAU season has also been tough. Switching from the Wisconsin Playground Warriors to the Wisconsin Swing after last season, Koenig and his teammates have primarily been playing in-state events, compared to the Warriors who travel throughout the country.

While winning the Next Level Invitational two weeks ago and losing in the semifinals of the UA Summer Slam last weekend, Koenig and his Wisconsin Swing teammates rarely travel together, making it hard to build chemistry within the group.

"It was weird because it felt like it was my first time playing with these guys," said Koenig. "We didn't click as well as we should have. Traveling together kind of brings teams together the most with team bonding. With the Warriors, we have a team bus where we sometimes drive 12 hours together. We haven't done any of that stuff together this year, so we aren't as close as we have been in the past.

"We've played in four NY2LA events in the Milwaukee area this year, which is where most of the guys are from. After a game, they just go home."

While disappointed, Koenig is still adamant he's having fun with his group of players this year, and doesn't regret the switch he made in the offseason to join the team.

"It's still been fun," Koenig said. "It's my last AAU season and I am committed (to Wisconsin), so I just looking to have fun. I like playing with my team. It's a better group of guys. I just wish we were a little closer."

Koenig also is getting closer to getting his body back in form. Reporting his weight to be around 175 pounds, Koenig's visits to the weight room have allowed him to see the strength return to his upper body. He also is starting to feel more confident in his ball handling with the goal of cutting down his turnovers.

"I know I have gotten better (over the last year), but I don't know how much better," said Koenig. "Being injured definitely was a learning experience. I learned not to take playing for granted. I believe my play with a lot more heart and intensity. I think my game is better right now because of it."

Throughout the entire roller coaster experience, the support Koenig has received from the Wisconsin staff hasn't waned, all the more reason he believes he made the right decision on ending his recruitment so early.

"They've always been real supportive of me," said Koenig. "They've been motivating me to work hard, to get healthy and to get back. I call them quite a bit, especially if I am frustrated after a loss. Coach Ryan makes me feel better about everything and tells me not to worry about that stuff. We talk about my game and where I need to get better."

In Koenig's eyes, the biggest thing he's missing is his confidence in his shot and overall game; confidence stripped from him after missing most of his junior season. He correctly predicted that would return this weekend in his final AAU tournament, as the Wisconsin Swing have been competing in the Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament since Thursday and Koenig made key plays in the final minute to help his team earn a 87-85 victory over Truth Trojans.

"I want to be more aggressive than I have been the last couple tournaments," said Koenig. "I feel like I am a pretty good passer, but I like to take it upon myself and score when my team needs it a little more. I want to score more, especially after the last tournament, and just become a better overall player for Wisconsin."

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