Badgers remain confident in Koenig despite shooting woes
Feb 20, 2014 at 11:29a ET
MADISON, Wis. -- It's been said before that statistics don't lie. A basketball team, for example, is only as good as its record indicates. And a shooter is only as proficient as his percentage suggests.
There are, however, instances in which the numbers truly do not reflect the talent of a particular player. And there may be no better case study than with Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig.
Koenig, a freshman from La Crosse, Wis., was one of the premier 3-point shooters in the state while at Aquinas High School last season, when he shot 45.5 percent on 3s (40-for-88). Yet this season, despite the same sharp mechanics, the results are nowhere to be found.
Thus far, Koenig has made only 11 of 41 3-point attempts (26.8 percent) and has been especially erratic during Big Ten contests. In 13 conference games, he has made 4 of 22 long-range tries (18.2 percent).
The college 3-point line is 20 feet, 9 inches, or a full foot farther away than in high school. But that hardly explains why a shooter as gifted as Koenig would struggle so much. Even coaches and teammates are surprised.
"I wouldn't call it a slump," Badgers assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "It's just a guy that hasn't had as much success as he expects or that we expect based on what his mechanics are and his ability to shoot and his track record as a shooter through life. We would expect that he would have made more by now."
Paris noted Koenig has found himself in game situations that haven't always lent to shooting success. For example, Paris cited instances in which Koenig's first touch after subbing into the game was an open 3-pointer before he had broken a sweat.
"At least at the beginning of the game, guys have the benefit of having warmed up," Paris said. "That's just how it's happened a couple times. Those are hard shots to make. And he's missed some other ones that were open. I wouldn't say it's a slump. I just think he's had some struggles making a shot. I think it's a small sample size. If you took a larger sample size with him, I think hopefully they'll end up going back to the percentages that he's capable of shooting."
Koenig is a pass-first point guard during the minutes he receives and has never been a volume shooter. This season, he is averaging 2.9 points and 1.1 assists in 14.8 minutes per game. Badgers guard Josh Gasser noted that, much of the time, Koenig is limited to one or two 3-point tries per game.
"I have talked to him a little bit," Gasser said. "Just try to keep confidence in him. I told him I was in a pretty similar situation freshman year. You don't get many shots. You get one or two and sometimes they just don't go in. But you've got to stay confident and know you're a good shooter and know your time is going to come. I keep telling him when he's on the floor, when he's attacking and being aggressive, he makes us so much better. If he understands that and he realizes that, that's only going to help his confidence and really help our team."
Coaches, meanwhile, are confident that Koenig's shot will come around. And if it happens before the season ends, the Badgers will be even more difficult to defend.
"Mechanically, he's one of the most consistent guys on the team," Paris said. "I said something once before about shot preparation. There have been a couple situations where we'll make an extra pass and it will get to him and he was thinking that guy may have shot the ball. So just shot preparation may be an area. But mechanically, he's as sound and solid and compact as any shot we have on the team. We haven't tried to tweak or even mention anything from a shot standpoint with him mechanically."
Brust injured: Badgers guard Ben Brust left Wednesday's practice after landing hard on his backside during 5-on-5 work. Though a team spokesperson said the injury was to an unspecified body part, Brust appeared to be holding his left side near his tailbone as he walked off the court. He did not return to practice and his status is day-to-day, a team spokesperson said.
This season, Brust is tied for second on the team in scoring (13.0 points per game), and his 64 made 3-pointers are nearly twice as many as anybody else on the team. Brust has started all 26 games.
No. 16 Wisconsin plays at No. 15 Iowa at 11 a.m. Saturday.
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