DI Freshman of the Year: Mike Gesell

BY TORK MASON | MAY 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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Mike Gesell’s first season in Black and Gold went about the way he thought it would. He became the Iowa men’s basketball team’s starting point guard right away and helped the program take another step forward in the third year of head coach Fran McCaffery’s tenure.

That’s not to say it was perfect. Gesell was pragmatic about being a true freshman point guard playing in the Big Ten.

“[The season] was all that I expected,” Gesell said. “It was a very fun year. I feel I improved a lot as a player. [But] I knew there would be ups and downs all season, which I had.”

Typical freshman growing pains aside, Gesell got his Hawkeye career off to a promising start in 2012-13. The South Sioux City, Neb., native finished the year as the team’s third-leading scorer with 8.7 points per game and was also third in assists with 2.6 per game.

Perhaps more importantly, Gesell established himself with upperclassmen as a player who could be depended upon. Senior Eric May said it didn’t take long to realize the program had a special player on its hands.

“To tell you the truth, I thought that when he came [at the beginning of the summer] and played with us [for the first time],” May said. “He was bringing it [even] then. He raises the intensity level. So right at the beginning of the summer, you could tell he was going to affect the game.”

Gesell made a positive impact down the stretch despite suffering a stress reaction in his foot at Nebraska on Feb. 21. The injury left him unable to post his normal minutes and forced him to move off the ball and put more emphasis on shooting than driving to the hoop.

“I couldn’t make as quick of cuts and things like that; I was limited in that way,” Gesell said. “It changed my game a little bit. I had to be aggressive while I was in and be a leader from the bench, too.”

The freshman said once he got the diagnosis, he never hesitated to get back on the court.

“I’m a competitor, and I wanted to be out there and help the team as much as I could,” Gesell said. “I figured I’d have all off-season to rest it. The doctors told me there was just a small chance of hurting it worse, so I was willing to go through that and help the team as much as I could.”

His versatility was particularly beneficial during that stretch, too. Gesell’s shooting ability was useful while playing the 2-guard, and it allowed junior Devyn Marble to handle the point-guard duties.

McCaffery said Gesell has a mental toughness about him that keeps him levelheaded while rotating between positions.

“He doesn’t rattle,” McCaffery said on Jan. 29. “He doesn’t rattle on the road; he doesn’t rattle if you’re mugging him off the ball. He’ll just keep working.”

But even though he played floor general from the beginning as a freshman, Gesell said he still needs to improve his ability to run the offense.

“One thing I’m very focused on [improving] is my court vision,” Gesell said. “Just seeing plays develop before they happen and getting that feel. Also just continue to work on my ball handling and get that down pat. And continue to work on my jumper because you can always improve on that and shoot a higher percentage. Just to work on my game, overall.”

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