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Koenig embraces role of ‘The General’

Junior point guard Tatum Koenig surveys the floor in a game versus Southern Illinois in February 2020.

The Bradley women’s basketball team bestowed the nickname “The General” on point guard Tatum Koenig. It only seems fitting, since the junior’s biggest goal is to lead the Braves on a conquest of the Missouri Valley Conference title. 

Koenig’s leadership role is showcased on the court, but also extends to the huddle, the locker room and off the court. A point guard is to a basketball team what a quarterback is to a football team. 

After leading the team in assists in 2019-20, Koenig pairs up again with Lasha Petree, Gabi Haack and Nyjah White, all holdovers from last year’s starting lineup. 

“The experience we’ve gotten the last three, four years is what’s put us at the top,” Koenig said. “It’s going to be amazing what we’re going to be able to do.”

Coach Andrea Gorski’s team is seeking redemption after finishing third in the conference before their season was cut short by the pandemic. This year, Koenig believes that this Braves team can dethrone nationally ranked Missouri State on top of the Valley. 

“I think we have more threats,” Koenig said. “We’re just going to amp up what we did last year. We’re going to be better in transition, better defenders and get more steals.” 

She said a big focus of the team’s preseason practices is being more active on defense and scoring more points per game. Bradley ranked eighth out of the 10 teams in the Missouri Valley in steals with 6.6. Their scoring offense ranked third at 70.5 points per game, but the Braves are now without the services of forward Chelsea Brackmann. 

Koenig is adamant that Braves fans will see her and her teammates engage in more aggressive gameplay this season. However, the Iowa native is mild-mannered off the court, enjoying reading, hiking and biking in her free time. 

She also happens to co-own a tarantula with her mom, a science teacher. Her dad was a football coach at West Branch High School and encouraged his daughter to play football starting in fourth grade. Koenig’s football career culminated in earning defensive MVP honors in her one season of playing in high school. 

Cross country, track and softball also appear on Koenig’s athletic resume. She mentions that her teammates have always played a big role in enjoying whatever sport she’s played. This year, Koenig looks to inspire and energize her fellow Braves in a season of uncertainty. 

“Bradley fans can expect me to keep the team engaged this year because we don’t know if we’re going to have fans at our games,” Koenig said. “We don’t even know if we’re going to have all our games this season.” 

A good leader ensures that their teammates are also receiving encouragement. Koenig certainly checks that box, singing high praise for a number of teammates, notably Haack and White.  

The Bradley women welcome five newcomers this year, one of them being fellow Iowan Chloe Rice, a transfer from St. Louis. Koenig noted that adding freshmen such as Tete Danso and Sami Martin in the paint diversifies the array of weapons the Braves have at their disposal. 

“We’ve just been learning what our strengths and weaknesses are over the past month and a lot of the freshmen brought in different strengths,” Koenig said. 

Bradley’s point guard is no different, addressing the stronger and weaker parts of her game over the offseason. She’s a strong passer, pacing the Braves with 108 assists in 2019, but that’s not enough to satisfy her. Having better vision and executing more skilled passes are two focal points for Koenig this upcoming season. 

Koenig chose Kyrie Irving as an NBA player she’d like to emulate on the court, citing his passing and ball-handling as something she’s always wanted to emulate. Irving’s ability to finish at the rim is a feature that the 5-foot-7-inch Koenig plans to add to her arsenal, but scoring is not a particular issue for her. Koenig averaged 7.6 points per contest in her sophomore year while her field goal percentage astoundingly stood near 50 percent, compared to 40 percent in her freshman season. 

Koenig can be a true force for Bradley in the 2020-21 season, but she spoke little of how her play would benefit herself. Instead, she repeatedly emphasized how her play would help others. 

“I want to be more known as a passer just because we have so many offensive threats on our team like Lasha, Gabi and Nyjah, so I know my role is more to find them and get them open,” Koenig said. 

The Braves have stars on their roster this year, namely the preseason Player of the Year in Petree and another first team all-conference member in Haack. However, it is safe to say that one of the biggest cornerstones of Bradley’s success is Koenig. 

With her at the controls, the Braves seem poised to have their best season in recent memory, provided they play their full slate of games. Uncertainties about the season aside, Koenig has her sights set on only one thing: 

 “An MVC title.”

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