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Bronson Koenig (Grand Rapids Drive)

La Crosse native Bronson Koenig takes a shot over an Oklahoma City Blue player in an NBA G League game on Nov. 21. The former Aquinas standout is playing for the Detroit Pistons affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive.

Bronson Koenig admits he’s happy where he is as a member of the G League’s Grand Rapids Drive, but hopes his recent success drives him to the next level.

The former Aquinas High School and University of Wisconsin standout has had a windy path between Madison and Grand Rapids, Mich., but Koenig has been playing more for the Detroit Pistons’ affiliate.

Koenig was once averaging 13.6 minutes per game, but played 40 in a Dec. 1 win and is now averaging 23.6 per game.

“I’m more cemented on a team rather than moving around, bouncing around from one team to the next and everything like that,” Koenig said. “That was what I was an experiencing early on, which was a lot of adversity in my career.

“It’s nice to be on a team and playing well right now.”

Koenig’s path from Madison to Grand Rapids wasn’t exactly a direct one.

After Florida stunned Wisconsin with an overtime buzzer-beater at Madison Square Garden during the NCAA Tournament, Koenig trained with the Milwaukee Bucks during the NBA Summer League after not being drafted.

Koenig played five Summer League games with the Bucks and scored a combined 26 points.

The Bucks traded the former Blugold to the Chicago Bulls on Sept. 28. He was waived by the Bulls on Oct. 13. The Pistons added Koenig via trade from the Windy City Bulls (the Bulls’ G League affiliate) in early November.

“I learned the business side of basketball and the politics that no one sees or understands,” Koenig said. “It’s unfortunate that I had to experience it early in my career, but I can also use it to my advantage. I know what to kind of expect moving forward.”

The Bucks wanted Koenig to evolve from a point guard to a shooting guard, and he still navigating the ins and outs of doing the same thing with the Drive.

“I’m getting used to it,” Koenig said. “I’m getting used to playing off the ball more. It was a big adjustment at first, but I think I’ve been doing a good job of playing the ‘2.’

“I always heard that it was a grind, but it’s one of those things that you don’t really know until get there and go through it,” Koenig added about the season. “It’s 50-plus games, and in November, I think we had a game every other day. That was taxing on your body and mind. It’s more long, long bus rides. It’s definitely an adjustment but I’m handling it well.”

The month of December has served Koenig well.

Koenig has played no less than 20 minutes per game this month. He has scored in double figures five times in the last eight games and twice netted 18 points.

“The more comfortable he gets, the more plays he makes for us,” Grand Rapids coach Ryan Krueger said. “He’s got a really good feel for the offense. He’s good on the ball, but I think he can get better making plays for his teammates.

“He’s been terrific defensively,” Krueger said. “His help off the ball has been great. His understanding of schemes has been great.”

Krueger took over as the Drive’s coach on Dec. 7 after previous coach Rob Werdann left the team to focus his attention on family matters.

This isn’t the first time Koenig has had to deal with a mid-season coaching change. During the 2015-16 Wisconsin season, Bo Ryan abruptly retired.

“The relationship (Krueger) and I have ... it was a smooth transition for me,” Koenig said.

Koenig has made 22 3-pointers, and his best game from 3-point territory this month came on a 5-for-8 night on Dec. 8 against Raptors 905.

Koenig also scored nine points in Friday’s win over the Maine Red Claws. The Drive are 6-2 this month and on a five-game winning streak.

Koenig also got to return to Wisconsin for a game on Dec. 20 when the Drive played the Wisconsin Herd — the Bucks’ affiliate — in Oshkosh, Wis.

Koenig used all of the allotted tickets from the Drive for family and friends. Fans cheered the Badgers’ all-time leader in 3-pointers even though Koenig was playing for the visiting team. He admitted, understandably, there were nervous feelings.

“I was in a great mood being back in the state of Wisconsin, to be honest,” Koenig said. “It was a long bus ride to Oshkosh, but it was nice to see, I think, 30 to 35 of my friends and family there.

“Wisconsin has crazy fans in general, especially the Fox Valley area,” Koenig said. “It’s a good area to have the Bucks’ G League (team).”

Photos: La Crosse Aquinas grad Bronson Koenig hosts basketball camp in hometown

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Sports reporter

Zach James covers sports for the La Crosse Tribune.

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