Fran McCaffery has enough to worry about as the Iowa men’s basketball coach without being concerned about how his players are doing academically.
That’s why he feels fortunate to have freshman guard Mike Gesell on the roster.
Gesell has started every game this season and ranks second on the team with 56 assists and 23 3-point baskets heading into Thursday’s matchup against Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
He’s arguably performed even better, though, as a student.
Gesell kept a life-long streak alive by earning no worse than an A-minus during his first semester at Iowa.
“To be truthful, that’s what we try to recruit, those types of guys,” McCaffery said Tuesday of Gesell, who carried a perfect 4.0 grade-point average throughout high school. “You’re not always going to get a 4.0 (student like Mike), let’s be frank, but the guys you don’t worry about when they are not in front of you.
“So if they are supposed to be in class, they are in class. If they are supposed to be in the weight room, they are in the weight room. And if they are not supposed to be anywhere specifically, then they are probably in the practice gym hitting shots. Those are the kind of guys you win with. And that’s what he is.”
Gesell said his goal is to graduate from Iowa with some type of business or finance degree without ever getting a B in a class.
“I don’t want a B, but it may happen,” said Gesell, who is a native of South Sioux City, Neb. “But that’s definitely the goal to try not to.”
The closest Gesell came to getting a B in the first semester was an A-minus in Interpretation of Literature. He was surprised to see the minus on his report card.
“I thought I was going to come out with an A in there,” Gesell said. “My last two papers I got As on. But somehow I ended up with an A-minus. It was probably my least-favorite class.”
Gesell also took classes in micro-economics and physics during the first semester.
“I like math a lot better than reading,” he said.
Gesell said school has always come sort of easy for him. But he credits his parents for stressing the importance of academics and for making sure that he handled his responsibilities on a daily basis.
“My parents in high school, they wouldn’t let me hang out with friends unless I got my homework done,” said Gesell, who was named the Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year as a junior and senior. “My brother and sister were both good in the classroom and they’ve been great influences on me.”
Gesell also draws inspiration from a quote by former NBA great “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
“One of my favorite quotes is from Pistol Pete (Maravich),” Gesell said. “He said: ‘What’s the point of doing anything if you’re not going to do it to the best of your ability?’
“And so I try to carry that over on the court and in the classroom. My parents, they’ve always stressed the importance of education and I really take pride in my school work and try to keep that up.”
Gesell said he enjoys attending classes and interacting with his fellow students and with his professors.
“I don’t enjoy the homework necessarily, but I like going to class and learning new things,” Gesell said. “That’s kind of a nerdy thing to say. But I actually do enjoy it a little bit.”
Gesell is learning to manage his time better in the second semester with Iowa playing more road games compared to the first semester.
“I have to keep working on that,” Gesell said. “But the adjustment (from high school) wasn’t too bad. There are a lot of great people around to help us. We have our academic learning center and they really keep us on top of things. And they make it a lot easier for us.”
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball