Playing at a Division I college with an outstanding basketball program, the immediate goal is to win in the limited time you’re a part of the program. If you’re gifted enough, the long term goal, and childhood dream of every player, is to walk across the stage with your family cheering, shake Adam Silver’s outstretched hand, all while wearing the hat of your future franchise. The big show. The NBA. An 18+ year investment of constant drills, practices, workouts, and weekend tournaments has paid off.
For perhaps one of Wisconsin men’s basketball’s most established talents, La Crosse native Bronson Koenig, there’s no doubting his versatile game. But does he have the potential to take the next step? Koenig leads the No. 14 Badgers in scoring at 16 points per game, threes made (32), and field goals made (65). His scoring prowess is apparent, but unfortunately it takes more than a shooter’s touch to earn a spot on the draft board.
Let’s take a look at what Ryan Carr, Directer of Scouting for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, says he looks at primarily when assessing young talent. Per an interview conducted by NBC Basketball Camps, Carr says skill level and athleticism are at the top of his list.
“I watch to see where a player’s skill set is in proportion to other athletes the same age. I also look for athleticism. By athleticism, I not only mean their physical size but also what they are able to accomplish with that size. Athleticism is speed, quickness, strength, as well as potential,” Carr said.
Looking at Koenig, skill is the majority of his game. A knock-down shooter from anywhere on the floor, defenders have to respect him in every isolation situation. His true shooting percentage, taking into account two point shots, threes, and free throws, so far this season is 58.8%, an impressively high rate considering he takes an average of 12.9 shots a game. His Player Efficiency Rating, a stat that measures all statistics by subtracting positive stats (points, rebounds, assists, etc.) from negative ones (missed shots, turnovers, fouls) over his college career is 15.2, a touch above the league average of 15, while his PER this season is a very respectable 21.5.
Offensively, he knows how to dominate tailored to his game, but will it translate? To Carr’s point, Koenig is not especially big for his position. At 6’3″ at 190 lbs., he’s average, if not undersized. Size is an undervalued commodity in the NBA, as undersized players do not often thrive unless they’re freak athletes or deft spot-up shooters. Seeing as Koenig scores off the dribble with ease, the immediate conclusion would be that he’d be able to at any level, as his skill set is established. However, if Koenig were to make the leap to the professional level, he may find himself in a spot-up shooter only role.
Second, Carr says he analyzes a players “Basketball IQ,” which he describes as “… a player’s ability to limit mistakes. He knows how to make the right play at the right time without forcing. A player with great basketball IQ plays with poise and understands tempo. He can take what the game gives him and make the most of each situation.”
Again, applying this to Koenig’s game statistically, he doesn’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, only averaging 1.5 turnovers per game. However, mistakes are not limited solely to turnovers – mistakes include missed rebounds, sloppy fouls, poor off-the-ball movement, and botched open shots. Mistakes are hard to quantify, but Koenig is far from a flashy, streaky player with an aptitude for tunnel vision.
Finally, Carr speaks at length about a sportsmanship mindset during times of intense pressure, “Great athletes are cool under pressure. They never allow themselves to be emotionally taken out of the game … I look for players who can handle adversity with dignity.”
Again, these intangibles are hard to quantify and have little to do with athletic potential, but are important traits to analyze. Koenig’s character, however, is apparent. Koenig, as a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, has been vocal and involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. He visited the site where the protests were held, and wrote a subsequent moving response published in The Player’s Tribune – talk about responding to adversity with dignity. Oh, also, if you want to talk about being cool under pressure, just ask Xavier how they feel about Bronson.
Koenig still has a lot to prove if he wants consideration for an NBA career, but luckily there’s a lot of season left. It will by no means be an easy feat, but Koenig is a special player who has the ability and drive to impact the team lucky enough to take the risk in drafting him.