Pushing each other to be better

BY MATT CABEL | JUNE 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell know each other — and their basketball skill-sets — well.

That’s how it’s been, and that’s how it will continue to be for Iowa’s top two point guards. The elevation of their games has come, in large part, because they “battle each other every day” on the practice court — at least in Gesell’s words.

Clemmons concurred, saying the two push and help each other, whether in practice drills or scrimmages.

“To push me to get better is to try to guard [Gesell] all the time,” Clemmons said. “Every single play, never taking a play off.”

Off the court, Clemmons and Gesell are roommates, along with center and fellow sophomore Adam Woodbury. Gesell said that the three have their “fair share of fun” and are “always giving each other a hard time.”

While primarily basketball players, the two also dabbled in filmmaking on the popular social-media craze Vine. One video, in which Clemmons cleans his face with a ‘Michael Jackson face wash’ and transforms into Gesell, has garnered more than 1,000 likes on the app.

“[Mike and I] got famous from that,” Clemmons said. “Hey, we’re funny. We’re two funny Hawkeyes.”

But on the court, it’s all business. It seems that fate would pit the two against each other. They arrived in Iowa City as members of the same recruiting class, both vying for playing time at the same spot — Gesell was a highly recruited South Sioux City, Neb., native, and Clemmons was a 3-star recruit out of Lansing, Mich.

“It’s a great matchup,” redshirt sophomore Jarrod Uthoff said. “It makes them much better and our team much better.”

The drive between the teammates in the Sunday Prime Time League matchup was clear with every possession. Clemmons was there to snatch the loose ball after Gesell missed a pair of free throws.

Gesell drove right past Clemmons and through the lane for a lay-up seconds after Clemmons missed a jumper.

Gesell carried the ball at half court and looked to penetrate the lane for a buzzer-beating lay-up to gain some momentum back for his team with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. But Clemmons was there any time Gesell saw an opening, matching every pivot and dribble.

“My job with [Mike] is to stick to him all the time,” Clemmons said. “He’s very hard to guard, because he has so much energy. He’s on the go-out all the time — you never know what you’re going to get out of him.”

For Gesell, guarding Clemmons is all about getting after his teammate and playing close defense.

Clemmons said defense on Gesell involves forcing him to finish his drives over his defenders.

“[I] try to make him uncomfortable,” Gesell said about Clemmons. “Just like any other guard in the Big Ten, you just have to work your butt off and try to outwork him.”

The duo even shared the starting lineup at an early point last season, with Clemmons starting 13 games at the 1 spot and Gesell moving to the 2. Prime Time Commissioner Randy Larson believes that head coach Fran McCaffery should feel comfortable about his guards heading into the 2013-14 season, with the capability of Devyn Marble moving to the 3 spot.

“I’m just excited to see what kind of players those guys are going to be,” said Larson, who coaches Clemmons in the Prime Time League. “It’s rare, I think, to have two point guards like that who both want to play defense and are both very confident offensive players who are also team-first guys. It’s a great luxury, and I give credit to Fran for that.”

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