Wisconsin turns to Koenig at point with Traevon Jackson hurt

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Traevon Jackson’s heir apparent at point guard for No. 7 Wisconsin is getting an early taste of the responsibilities that comes with the job.

No that sophomore Bronson Koenig wanted to enter the starting lineup because Jackson needs foot surgery.

But it will be up to Koenig to handle the point in Big Ten play while Jackson is sidelined. The Badgers (15-2) return to the Kohl Center to face Nebraska on Thursday, the same day that Jackson is scheduled to have surgery.

”He’s prepared for this moment. He’s been on big stages before. He’s won state championships here,” associate head coach Greg Gard said about Koenig, who is from La Crosse.

”He, I think now, will adjust into that (starting) role,” Gard said. ”It’s his time to step in.”

Koenig had his moments as the first guard off the bench. In particular, he scored 11 points as a freshman in the first half of the NCAA national semifinal against Kentucky.

Now, he will likely have to start at point guard through the remainder of conference play.

The team has said Jackson, a senior, should begin rehab in two or three weeks. Jackson hopes to be back to finish out the season. There are about seven weeks to go before tourney time.

Koenig appears quicker and a little smoother with the ball than Jackson. The senior is stronger and can draw from having more than two seasons of experience as the point guard for coach Bo Ryan, a former point guard himself.

Koenig also doesn’t have Jackson’s steady leadership qualities. Ryan has relied on Jackson to take big shots late in close games.

”It’s very unfortunate that Trae had that injury, but when someone goes down like that, people have got to be ready to step up and I’m sure I’m ready to step up,” Koenig said. ”He’s kind of taken me under his wing and taught me how to be a point guard for Coach Ryan.”

There are other Badgers who can handle the ball, too.

Starting 2-guard Josh Gasser was going to take over at the point two seasons ago before getting hurt. Jackson eventually took the job.

Preseason All-American big man Frank Kaminsky, who filled in at point guard in high school, can also handle the ball in a pinch.

Kaminsky expects Jackson to be at every practice and every game to help Koenig and other teammates. But it is Jackson’s on-court leadership that might be toughest to replace.

”Trae is such a great leader out on the court, and it really can’t be replicated what he does for this team,” Kaminsky said. ”So we’re going to miss him a lot, and hopefully he can get back as soon as possible.”