With rest being the only real cure to the stress reaction in Mike Gesell’s right foot, it’s probably time to turn off the lights on what’s been a solid freshman season.
It’s hard saying that with the Iowa men’s basketball team set to host Stony Brook in the second round of the NIT on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But there comes a point when trying to seize the moment is asking too much when your body won’t cooperate.
I could just be stating the obvious because it almost seemed as if Gesell’s season was over judging from the somber tone of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s voice when asked about Gesell’s situation after Wednesday’s 68-52 victory over Indiana State in the first round of the NIT.
McCaffery seemed deflated despite the celebratory mood brought on by Iowa winning its 22nd game of the season and by the sellout crowd of 15,400 that turned Carver-Hawkeye Arena into a major distraction for the visiting Sycamores.
Gesell started his 30th game of the season and appeared to be holding up until the second half when he started favoring his injured foot. He appeared to land awkwardly after taking a shot from near the top of the key in the second half and never was the same after that.
It was eerily familiar to the Michigan State game last Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament when Gesell also appeared to be holding up physically until late in the second half when he started limping.
Gesell said afterward that he “tweaked” his foot while making a cut, causing the pain to intensify. He tweaked it again Wednesday, but this setback seemed more severe because Gesell only played four minutes in the second half and because McCaffery said after the game that he was very concerned about Gesell’s situation. McCaffery actually lowered his voice and said the words “very concerned” back to back when addressing Gesell’s injury.
You sort of felt the joy of victory being sucked out of the press room while McCaffery spoke about Gesell’s status.
Gesell said he’s been told by a doctor that playing would not cause his injury to worsen to the point where he would need surgery. It’s more about whether he can deal with the pain.
He clearly couldn’t deal with the pain in the second half against Indiana State. So shut him down, get him healthy again and just be thankful that he has three more seasons to be a Hawkeye.
And be thankful for Iowa’s depth because while losing Gesell is a major hit, there are plenty of reinforcements starting with 6-foot-6 junior Devyn Marble, who basically took over Wednesday’s game against Indiana State with his versatility on offense. Blocking a shot was about the only thing Marble didn’t do during Wednesday’s victory, which improved Iowa’s record to 22-12 on the season and to 51-49 under McCaffery.
Marble’s stat line of 24 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals already puts his performance in an elite category, but even more so when you factor in that he only had one turnover while playing most of the second half at point guard.
I know I’ve been on this mini Marble kick for the past few days, but to have a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who can easily shift to point guard and play the dual role of go-to scorer and floor general without the offense being affected is rare.
It’s also more reason to shutdown Gesell for the rest of the season. He has tried to suck it up and take the pain, but enough is enough.
This isn’t to suggest that Gesell has been pressured to play. He wants to play because he’s a competitor and a tough kid who’s participating in his first postseason as a Hawkeye. But now it’s time to take hold of that youthful exuberance and sit him for the rest of the season.
And please don’t take this wrong, but knowing that Gesell isn’t available might reignite fellow freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons, who has combined for eight turnovers in the last two games, including three in Wednesday’s victory while only playing six minutes.
The team needs Clemmons even when Gesell is healthy because you can never have enough point guards who can pressure the ball on defense and help create for others on offense.
Clemmons has shown flashes of brilliance this season. It seemed as if McCaffery was pleading for that player to return when he substituted for Clemmons in the second half of Wednesday’s game against Indiana State. McCaffery followed Clemmons to the bench, crouched down and got in his face and screamed the words “toughen up” loud enough to where those sitting in the press area about 20 rows up could hear it.
Gesell might be able to withstand the pain and still be somewhat effective if he didn’t play with such an attacking mentality. He makes aggressive cuts to the baskets and he also likes to shoot off the dribble, both of which require him to come to sudden jump stops.
It’s hard enough to play that way at the Division I level with two healthy feet. Trying to do it with an injured foot is noble, but too much to ask.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball