UW men's basketball: Koenig commitment surprises recruiting experts

2011-09-28T06:30:00Z 2012-01-06T23:36:21Z UW men's basketball: Koenig commitment surprises recruiting expertsJIM POLZIN | jpolzin@madison.com | 608-252-6473 | @JimPolzinWSJ madison.com

Eyebrows were raised among those who follow recruiting when news spread over the weekend that the University of Wisconsin men's basketball program landed a commitment from Bronson Koenig.

Koenig, a highly touted 6-foot-2 guard from La Crosse Aquinas, orally committed to Badgers coach Bo Ryan on Saturday morning. Among the schools who had offered Koenig a scholarship were North Carolina, which he called his dream school, and Duke.

But Koenig decided to stay in state, turning down the likes of Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski to join Ryan and the Badgers.

"Whenever you get a guy who's a Top 60 prospect, it's a big deal," ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "And when he's an elite player from your state, where you've had to ward off some outside intruders, it's a great recruiting win."

A little less than seven months ago, the Badgers lost out on another state star, forward J.P. Tokoto of Menomonee Falls. Tokoto, a senior this season, had offers from Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA, among others, but he narrowed his choices to two before picking North Carolina over UW.

It would have been a significant blow for UW to lose another in-state standout, but Ryan and Co. made sure that didn't happen.

Longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hot100hoops.com was among those whose eyebrows were raised by the Koenig news.

"I said, 'OK, they've now said, 'Our state borders are closed again,'" Coleman said. "I think (UW) did a good job of convincing him it was a good place for him."

Ryan and his staff clearly put in the time to secure Koenig's commitment. During the July recruiting periods in 2010 and '11, the Badgers didn't miss any of Koenig's AAU games.

"Coach Ryan and (associate head coach Greg) Gard followed him all over the place watching him play," Aquinas coach Rick Schneider said. "I think the month of July was really the statement for Wisconsin.

"It certainly made him know that he was a priority to them and instilled how badly they wanted to get him. A lot of the times, he goes to these tournaments and he's not talking to the coaches and things like that, but he's a smart kid, he knows who's there watching him and who's not."

Koenig was an Associated Press first-team All-State selection last season as a sophomore, when he helped lead Aquinas to a 27-1 record and a WIAA Division 3 state title.

"I like his toughness," Telep said. "And he's a take-charge kind of guy."

Coleman said Koenig fits the mold of what Ryan is looking for in a point guard.

"We've got him (ranked) No. 60, but I won't be surprised if he climbs another 20 spots over the next year as he gets stronger and gets seen by more people," Coleman said. "I've only seen him a couple times and I've got him where he is. I think he's the kind of point guard that wins in the Big Ten, especially for Bo Ryan."

Koenig's commitment is a great opening statement in UW's 2013 recruiting class. UW has three more scholarships to give in that class and is expected to host around 20 prospects at Saturday's football game against Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium.

UW's only scholarship commitment in the 2012 class is 6-7 forward Sam Dekker of Sheboygan Lutheran. Zak Showalter, an All-State guard from Germantown, will be a preferred walk-on in the '12 class.

The Badgers had another scholarship to offer in the 2012 class but decided to save it for 2013, which features a deeper pool of talent.

Dekker wasn't a household name when he orally committed to UW in June 2010, but his stock has been on the rise ever since. UW fans are already giddy with the anticipation of Dekker and Koenig playing together starting with the 2013-14 season.

"I've been watching Sam now for three years and Sam has made leaps and bounds," said Coleman, who has Dekker at No. 33 in his 2012 rankings. "It's not a surprise to me that he's in the top 40 nationally because he's added to his game every time I've watched him over the last three years."

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