LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Aquinas senior guard Bronson Koenig, now the Wisconsin AP's 2013 Player of the Year reached the finish line of a long road to recovery with the state title win. That road was even longer for teammate Michael Conway.
The lasting impact of the injuries that kept these two off the court last season may be the unanswerable questions. It can, after all, hurt to look back at what might have been.
"That would have been kind of cool if we could have repeated from 2011, and then this year that would have been a three-peat," Koenig said.
More painful, though, were the injuries that caused two key Blugolds to miss most, or in Conway's case, all of the 2011-2012 season.
Conway detailed his injuries, "I dislocated my shoulder in football. I tore my labrum and frayed my rotator cuff."
"I tore a ligament in my thumb," Koenig also shared his. "Then right when I got my cast off my thumb, I got my tonsils out--another two week injury, and then my throat started bleeding, so I had to get it re-cauterized, and that set me back another week."
When asked what they remembered initially, Conway answered, "Right away it was just kind of shock. Like, 'Is this really happening? And, will I actually come back just as strong as I was?' Especially right after, when I heard all they had to do to repair it."
Head coach Rick Schneider had to do all he could to try and repair his roster.
"We knew that we weren't going to be as experienced," the AP's Coach of the Year said. "The two guys coming back that had a lot of experience were Bronson and Michael, so it was 'Okay, we just have to find a way to get this done without Michael.' The other guys gained a lot of experience. That's the positive of it. You've got other kids that got opportunities they otherwise would not have, so for them, it's a benefit."
Schneider said he saw different from both players during the recovery process.
"Bronson is a gym rat. I knew with him, maybe it did take a couple of months to get going again and stop questioning himself and his abilities. [With] Michael I was concerned with because he did miss an entire season, so it was getting him back and acclimated to the season. And early on, he still had some nagging injuries from football early on," he said.
But, Conway too eventually "got there."
"Oh absolutely," Schneider said. "He was there, the first time we played Onalaska, December 21st, you could see all of the sudden, all those nagging injuries from football were gone, and in his mind he was healthy. In his mind, he needed to be healthy."
Healthy and experienced, nothing stopped Aquinas from making their return to the state tournament just as sweet.
"It was really tough to watch our team from the sidelines [last year] knowing that, if we were out there we could really help the team a lot," said Koenig.
Conway added, "To know that I had to go through all of that, in addition to making it through the football season this year, going through all the workouts that everybody else had to do, and just being a part of the team again, it felt great."
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