When Wisconsin lost Trae Jackson to a broken foot early in Big Ten play, the concern was that the Badgers would suffer a great deal without their starting point guard.
They lost to Rutgers in the game that he was injured. The questions were valid, but they have been answered by sophomore Bronson Koenig, a former top 100 recruit and Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin that has smoothly transitioned into the role of primary ball-handler.
In his four starts, Koenig is averaging 11.3 points, 2.0 assists and shooting 50 percent from three with just a pair of turnovers despite averaging 36.5 minutes. More importantly, the Badgers are 4-0 in those four games, including a pair of wins over Iowa.
As a result, Koenig has been the subject of a number of profiles in the last week, namely from Sports Illustrated and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. His back story is fascinating: Koenig’s mother is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, and he’s embracing the fact that he is a role model for American Indian youth, meeting with groups of high schoolers to discuss their shared heritage as early as his freshman season. During road trips for conference games.
Perhaps what’s most impressive is that Koenig hasn’t shied away from the discussion surrounding the use of slurs as the mascot for team names, specifically railing on Washington, D.C.’s football team. From the Journal-Sentinel:
“I am disappointed,” he said. “I don’t know if I would say angry but kind of angry because I feel like…and with the mascots and all that stuff I think people think it’s OK to make fun of us. I don’t want to go too far into it. But even other minorities…I feel sometimes like we are lowest of the low, among the minorities. And when a Native American kid sees that growing up and sees the disrespect, it lowers their self-esteem and puts them in a lower place in society. It’s just not a good feeling…. It’s honoring them? It’s not racist? How are you going to say that when you’re not a Native American?”
“That term comes from when we were skinned and our flesh was red,” he said. “I don’t see how that is honoring us in anyway. Is our skin red? Would it be OK for the Kansas City Negroes or the Blackskins? That’s not OK at all.”
It’s impressive for anyone to use their platform as a sports star to raise social awareness and act as a role model for a cause they believe.
It’s even more admirable when that sports star is a 20-year old that’s getting national attention for the first time.