The first game Sunday in the Prime Time League was sort of a peek ahead to practice next season for the Iowa men’s basketball team.
Incoming Iowa freshman point guard Mike Gesell spent much of the game competing against fellow incoming Iowa freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons.
The pair finished with 20 points, but Gesell also had 11 assists and he made all eight of his free throws to help his team squeeze out a 103-96 victory at the North Liberty Community Center.
After the game, the players were asked by reporters to critique each other’s game and also what it’s like playing the same position.
“He’s just a tremendous defender,” Gesell said of the 6-foot-1 Clemmons, who is from Lansing, Mich. “He’s tough to get around. He’s always in your face. He’s one of those defenders that is always up in you and bugging you.
“That’s something you’ve got to get used to playing at the next level. And it’s helped me out a lot.”
Clemmons also raved about Gesell, but Clemmons isn’t alone in that regard.
The 6-1 Gesell was ranked among the top 100 players in the 2012 high school senior class and was named Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year as a junior and senior.
“Mike, that’s my guy,” Clemmons said. “We work together all the time.
“We’re just trying to push each other every day. You’ve got to push somebody to get the best out of them. The more we push each other, the better we get.”
Former Iowa center Jarryd Cole, who now plays professional basketball in Europe, is Gesell’s teammate in the Prime Time League.
Cole scored 24 points Sunday and was the beneficiary of several of Gesell’s 11 assists.
“I love his game,” Cole said of Gesell. “He’s very unselfish. He’s a scorer. He’s heady. And he knows how to pass the basketball. You can’t ask for much more from a point guard.
“I think he’s a man well over his years. He’s coming in and he has a lot in his package, so he’s going to help the team right away.”
Cole said it’s even better that Gesell won’t have to do it alone at point guard with Clemmons around. Cole likes their potential to wear down opposing point guards as sort of two-headed attack, but Cole said it’ll only work if Gesell and Clemmons accept their roles.
Iowa struggled during much of Cole’s time in the program, and he indicated on Sunday that friction between players was part of the problem.
“That’s going to be real crucial, especially when they learn how to work together as a tandem,” said Cole, who used up his eligibility at Iowa in 2011. “Somebody is not going to start. So you have to accept that and then come on the court and do what you can for the best of the team.
“It can’t be, “I want to start or he shouldn’t be starting over me.’ It can’t be that. That’s kind of what we had in the past and look where it got us. So definitely, you’ve got to have your mind in it and you have to do what you can do to impact the team.”
Cole thinks Gesell and Clemmons could play together with the more offensive-minded Gesell switching to shooting guard.
However, Cole thinks they’ll be more effective as a one-two punch at point guard.
“He probably can (play shooting guard), but he’s a little small for a shooting guard,” Cole said of Gesell, who averaged 25.2 points per game as a high school junior and 24.8 as a senior. I think he’s capable of doing that, but I like the tandem coming in and going out because then you’re running down the opposing team. So I think it’s going to be a great one-two punch right there.”
Gesell said he already has benefitted from playing against Clemmons on a regular basis this summer.
“He’s very good at getting to the basket and he’s a very good defender,” Gesell said. “It’s fun just getting to battle with him at practice and everything. I can see improvements in his game already and going head to head I can see improvements in my game, too.”
Fun is also the word Gesell used to describe what he thinks it’ll be like playing under Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
“I love Fran,” Gesell said. “He’s the number one reason I came here, just the way he handles himself on and off the court. Off the court, he’s like our best friend.
“And on the court, he really gets after us and pushes us to take our game to the next level.
“And that’s something you need in a coach. And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun getting to play for him.”
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.