The Road to the NBA through Grand Rapids for Two American Indian Basketball Players

Derek Willis, left with Bronson Koenig, right

Published November 19, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGANDerek Willis and Bronson Koenig have some things in common. Both graduated from college with distinguished careers with the dream to play professional basketball. Both are American Indians: Willis is Southern Arapahoe, Pawnee and Creek; Koenig is a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

And, both now play for the Grand Rapids Drive, a NBA G League team, affiliated with the Detroit Pistons.

On Saturday night, the Grand Rapids Drive hosted the Canton Charge. The game went into overtime, with the Drive losing 107-104.

Derek Willis sports an American Indian headdress on his left shoulder.


Bronson Koenig signed with the Grand Rapids Drive on November 8, 2017.


Willis, a 6’9″ (228 lbs.) forward, who played for the Kentucky Wildcats.


Derek Willis, Number 33. scored 14 points on Saturday.


Koenig, a 6’3″ (194 lbs,) guard, who played for the Wisconsin Badgers.

At the conclusion of the Saturday’s night game, it was Koenig’s turn to sign authographs and take photos with fans. Koenig signed programs, tickets, shirts and small basketballs for young and old.

Bronson with his mother, Ethel Funmaker of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She followed her son during his collegiate career at Wisconsn. She make the eight-hour journey from LaCrosse to see her son play.

Native News Online photos by Levi Rickert.

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