MESA, Ariz. — Mike Gesell looks pretty boyish in the photo above. You would, too, if you were a 6-foot-2 high school kid standing next to a 6-foot-7, 305-pounder who is being recruited to play football at Nebraska. Florida State, Stanford, USC and Arizona State still have hopes of landing him.
That’s Andrus Peat. He’s a center. (Duh.) His brother plays at Nebraska. His dad was a 6-year NFL veteran. His Tempe Corona del Sol frontline teammate, Avery Moss, is 6-5, 250. He will also play major-college football, at either Nebraska, Stanford or Florida State.
So, South Sioux City High, the two-time defending Class B state champion in Nebraska, was considerably outsized Thursday night when it battled Corona del Sol at the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View High School. That, way more than anything else, is why the Cardinals lost, 82-72, their first defeat in six games this season.
Peat and Moss combined (Peat-Moss. Isn’t that funny?) for 13 offensive rebounds and their team outrebounded SSC, 40-23. That was the difference in the Aztecs’ 82-72 win over the visitors from several states away. Corona del Sol is ranked No. 1 in one Arizona state Division I ranking, No. 2 in another.
Many fans at the game wore Nebraska Cornhuskers garb. Though they were cheering for South Sioux City, I think they were trying to send a welcoming message to Moss and Peat.
Oh, the Aztecs have an Arizona State-bound guard named Calaen Robinson, who amassed 26 points and six assists. And while he wasn’t outplayed by Gesell, who is committed to play at Iowa next year, he spoke like he was. And while I’ve buried the lead for Iowa basketball fans, they might find the following about Gesell worth the wait.
“He’s one heck of a player,” said Robinson, who had a warm exchange of respect with Gesell after the game. “He’s probably one of the greatest players I’ve ever played against in my life.
“He was ridiculous. There are no words to describe how the kid was playing. He’d go from his left to his right, and right back from his right to his left. He’ll do very well at Iowa.”
Gesell had 36 points and 6 assists, bringing his two-game total in the Cardinals’ Arizona odyssey to 70 points and 15 assists. His SSC team had also games in Mesa scheduled for Friday and Saturday afternoons.
Much has been made about the commitment to Iowa that was given by 7-foot Sioux City East center Adam Woodbury, and understandably so. But I wonder if Gesell might not turn out to be the “get” of Fran McCaffery’s 2012 recruiting class.
“This kid can play,” said VisitMesa.com tournament co-director Marc Beasley, who had 16 teams chock full o’ talent at his event, four of them from out-of-state. “He can get to the hole anytime, but he also is a team player.”
Everything in South Sioux City’s offense goes through Gesell. He shot 22 times, but I don’t recall a poorly advised attempt in the bunch. He has no qualms passing the ball, and gets it to the right places. SSC has other players who can make 3-pointers, and Gesell set them up nicely.
There was no hesitation, and little Gesell did was forced except in the final few minutes when he hurriedly tried to help rally his team out of its deficit. The Cardinals trailed by just 70-67 with 3:45 left, but the Aztecs used their muscle to great advantage in peeling off an 11-0 run to pull away.
It was a highly entertaining contest, with two future major-college guards showing why they are that.
“It was just a great high school basketball game,” SSC Coach Terry Comstock said. “There were great athletes on both sides. When you have two big guys like they do, you know there will be matchup problems. But this trip will do nothing but help us.”
Gesell struck me as a grounded kid. When I told him what Robinson said about him, he replied “It’s always nice to hear a compliment from another good player. It was a lot of fun just competing against him.
“These are the games you look forward to. We have a lot to learn from this game.”
Now, for the videos. The first is of a Gesell 3-pointer. He created just enough of a fake to create extra room in the corner to launch his shot. The third video is Gesell’s postgame remarks, and the fourth gives you a taste of what Corona del Sol’s Robinson does.
Who knows, maybe Gesell and Robinson will hook up in an NCAA tournament game one of these years.
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