Badgers’ Koenig has backing of a whole nation

Koenig is one of only three players in the 2015 Final Four tournament that is Native American

The Badgers play their Sweet 16 match-up against North Carolina Thursday night, and La Crosse Aquinas grad Bronson Koenig will be the Badgers starting point guard.

While Koenig’s play is gaining nationwide attention, he’s become an even bigger role model for many kids.

Last season, there were 18,368 men playing college basketball, according to the NCAA. Of those, only 48 of those student-athletes were either American Indian or Alaskan Native. Koenig is one of them. He is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a group that looks at Koenig as more than just a basketball player.

When Bronson Koenig puts on his #24 Wisconsin Badger uniform, he’s representing more than just the Badgers, or even the state of Wisconsin. He’s representing a whole nation.

And when he’s on the court, he’s more than just a point guard. He’s a role model.

“Bronson is such an inspiration to not only the Ho-Chunk Nation, our kids, but kids in general all over the Indian population all across the country,” said Lorinda Bird, longtime family friend of the Koenig family.

Being that role model is something Koenig welcomes.

“It’s been fun. I just really want to use the platform that I have to kind of just be a role model for all of Native America pretty much and all the kids on the reservations or off the reservations. Just to kind of give them some hope,” Koenig said.

Family friend and fellow Ho-Chunk member Mandy Youngthunder is hoping her two young boys will learn from Bronson.

“I would love for my sons to get inspiration from that as well. I think one of my big goals for them is to continue on to college and pursue whatever their goals are,” Youngthunder said.

Bird has seen Bronson play several times in red and white and even watched him cut down the nets a few weeks ago after winning the Big Ten Tournament.

She said Bronson Koenig has become more than just a native name, it’s become a nationwide name. And he’s a great person to be representing the Ho-Chunk Nation.

“It’s just incredible, he’s such an inspiration to everybody and he’s such a humble guy, he’s so sweet. I don’t know if he’d want me to say that, but he really is,” Bird said.

Koenig is one of only three players in this year’s tournament that is Native American.

Koenig said he is noticing more and more Native American kids at his games, and he always tries to make sure and say hello and offer words of encouragement to them.