(L-R): Ron Baker (Potawatomi), Bronson Koenig (HoChunk), & Derek Willis (Inuit).
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LOS ANGELES — As the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 kicks begins tonight, it is good to note three Native players are still in the tournament.
Ron Baker, a tribal citizen of the Citizen Band of Potawatomi, plays for the Wichita State Shockers. They play tonight against Norte Dame approximately at 7 pm-EDT on CBS.
Bronson Koenig, tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the Wisconsin Badgers play tonight at approximately 7:45 pm-EDT on TBS.
Derek Willis is from the Inuit Peoples in Alaska, plays for the Kentucky Wildcats. He and teammates play against West Virginia at approximately 9:45 pm-EDT on CBS
The three were highlighted in a recent article published in NDNSports.com.
Bronson Koenig, (Ho Chunk Nation), is a 6-4 guard for the Wisconsin Badgers who earned a #1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tourney. Probably themost notable Native American athlete in men’s college basketball as reported by contributing ndnsports.com writer Tyler Jones. Koenig was named the starting point guard for #6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers 13 games ago when then starting guard Travon Jackson went down with an injury. Until that point, Bronson was the number one guy off the bench giving the Badgers quality minutes off the bench and averaging about five points a game. Since being named the starting guard, Wisconsin is 12-1 and Bronson is averaging 11.9 points per game and 28 minutes per game. The Badgers will travel to Omaha, Nebraska on Friday to take on Coastal Carolina at CenturyLink Center.
Ron Baker, (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), is a 6-4 guard for the Wichita State Shockers who earned the #7 seed in the Mid West Region of the tournament. Ron is the leading scorer for the #12 ranked Shockers, averaging 15 points per game and averages over 32 minutes of playing time per game as well. This season Ron was named to the Missouri Valley Conference first team all-conference where the Shockers won the regular season conference title. The Shockers were upset in the semi-finals of the MVC tournament. Ron is also one of only 15 finalist for the Wooden Award as men’s top college basketball player of the year that will be announced at the men’s Final Four and he was recently nominated, by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, as one of 14 finalist for the 2015 Oscar Robertson Trophy. Earlier this month Ron was named to the USA Today’s 2nd Team All-America list, making him the ninth player in WSU history to earn All-American status. Despite his accomplishments, Ron remains humble and proud as featured in this ARTICLE BY contributing ndnsports.com writer Charlie Perry.
Derek Willis, (Inuit Peoples), is a 6-9 reserve forward for the #1 overall seed of the NCAA tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats. Derek has appeared in 16 games this season for the record-setting Kentucky Wildcats who are 34-0 on the season. On a team where minutes are difficult to accumulate, even by consensus All-Americans, Derek still has managed to average almost 5 minutes per game. Derek’s game high for points this season came against the Kansas Jayhawks, who are a #2 seed, where he scored 5 points in a few minutes of play.
Best of luck to all of these athletes and their respective teams as they begin their quest for the national championship. The first round of the NCAA tournament will begin with the “First Four” on March 17th & 18th followed by the second rounds beginning on Thursday, March 19th. Tune into NCAA.COM for the most up-to-date information on the tournament.
Editor’s Note: A portion of this article was first published in NDNSports.com. Used with permission. All rights reserved.