Nebraska week tipped off the best way you could imagine on Saturday. As the football team dismantled South Dakota, one spectator, who happens to be a high school basketball phenom, pledged to stay home and play for Bo Ryan's Badgers.
We haven't discussed Bronson Koenig much on this site because Wisconsin has been recruiting him for so long (since before I joined B5Q) and perhaps also because I had given up on UW's chances with Koenig on two separate occasions. First when he named North Carolina his dream school and again in February when Roy Williams popped the question and started showing up in La Crosse at open gyms.
But Bo persevered ... so much that he did not miss one of Koenig's AAU games this past summer. Koenig is the No. 1 player in the state for 2013 and a consensus Top 75 player nationally in his class. Securing Koenig means more to the Badgers than just getting a very good player though.
The immediate impact of Koenig's decision could be a snowball effect that we see at traditional basketball powers. Top-notch players want to play together. The rising junior's verbal commitment breaks the seal on a 2013 class that has the makings of a special one for the Badgers. Prospects like Kyle Washington (who Louisville just offered) and Semi Ojeleye have watched Koenig, Sam Dekker and the Playground Warriors dominate together on the AAU circuit first-hand and now can see the foundation being laid at Wisconsin.
Long-term, Koenig gives Wisconsin's recruiting in the state an assist as well. High schoolers like Dekker and Koenig grew up watching homeboys Brian Butch and Michael Flowers carry the Badgers to a No. 1 ranking. As the quality of prep basketball in the state continues to elevate, more prospects are going to be courted by out-of-state programs. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, it is safe to say most people expect the Koenig-Dekker duo to have plenty of success in Madison too. So future prep stars most likely will have grown up watching Koenig spurn UNC to enjoy success in the cardinal and white. That advertising is priceless.
Ryan's recruiting renaissance over the past 15 months debunks a lot of myths, chief among them that Wisconsin was losing ground with in-state products. It is telling that Marquette really had no chance with Koenig as the Badgers tightened their watch.
Plus, beating North Carolina for a recruit is sweet in and of itself, especially after the J.P. Tokoto decision. Koenig was a top priority for UNC in his class and don't let any Tar Heel fans tell you differently. The recruiting battle over Koenig was just about as fierce as it was with Tokoto, giving Ryan another opportunity to show that he's still willing to put forth effort with top prospects. Batting .500 (or better if you count Butch) head-to-head with a blue blood like Carolina is impressive even for in-house talent.
In light of his two finalists, the most interesting quotes from Koenig coming out of the weekend were ones regarding Ryan's style of play:
"Coach Ryan and I talked about style of play quite a bit," Koenig said. "He is recruiting players who will be able to run. Knowing that we will run the swing offense, but also run in the future, was a big part of my decision."
And anyone who has seen Koenig and Dekker play together or even stumbled across their exchanges on Twitter can see the connection the two guys share:
"I've played with him so much and have developed a good friendship with him. He's a guy who can definitely play in an up-tempo style so I'm looking forward to doing a lot of running with him at Wisconsin."
I don't think that there is any major shift in philosophy coming down the pipeline based on this information. Yet Ryan is proud of the fact that they he doesn't promise anything to recruits or ever tell them simply what they want to hear, so we shouldn't dismiss what Koenig is saying. I think the youngster may not get to run as much as he's hoping, but it appears the coaching staff is making a concerted effort to sign players who can run. Fast breaks most often lead to easier baskets, which is something recent Badger teams have lacked as they depend more and more on the 3-pointer.
Koenig showed great basketball instincts from day one of his freshman season, excelling from the free throw line and making incredible passes. And he is a proven winner. Now that Koenig has developed into a lights out shooter, some -- even Roy Williams -- view him as a combo guard.
In Wisconsin's eye, however, Koenig has never been anything other than Ryan's point guard of the future.
Drawing comparisons to players like Kirk Hinrich and Devin Harris, Koenig brings the total package at the lead guard position. He should help to continue the impressive legacy at the point that Ryan has established at UW. With Koenig and Dekker in the fold, Wisconsin's staff can focus its recruiting efforts on pieces needed to compliment its two potential stars at PG and SF.
As far as accolades, Koenig has garnered them all. He was named first-team All-State after averaging 17 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists as a sophomore. After leading the Blugolds to the WIAA Division 3 championship, Koenig was even named a Sophomore All-American by ESPN's RISE magazine. As you can see from the video clips, Koenig is still a work in progress, but his smoothness is undeniable.