NORTH LIBERTY — Mike Gesell crossed over at the top of the key and exploded into the lane. He spun and laid off a pass to Jarryd Cole, leaving Cole with a wide-open, two-handed dunk.
That was just one of Gesell’s five assists, but he did a lot more than pass in the opening game of the Prime Time League on Tuesday night.
The Sioux City, Neb., native proved why he was one of the prized recruits in the 2012 Hawkeye class with an array of moves for a packed gym of fans at the North Liberty Community Center. He scored 27 points to go with the five assists and six rebounds to lead his Jill Armstrong/Skogman Reality team.
“Any time I get to compete like that it’s always fun for me,” Gesell said.
Not much rattled the Hawkeye freshman. When a defender tried to get him to play too fast, he simply burst by him or made a 3-point jumper. He finished with five triples.
Gesell was a catalyst in a comeback from a 25-point first half deficit to Vinton Merchants/Mike Gatens Real Estate. His team lost, 93-89, but Gesell made it interesting by hitting a couple of shots in the final minute.
Getting to know his future teammates is the main goal.
“We’ve been gelling really well so far,” Gesell said. “I think getting to know the guys you’re going to be playing with is a real key to success.”
Other future Hawkeyes were on display as well, but none quite as flashy as Gesell.
Seven-footer Adam Woodbury scored two points in his Prime Time League debut, fouling seven times as well. He grabbed eight rebounds but struggled against Cole’s physical play.
“It was a good experience going up against Jarryd,” Woodbury said. “He’s a professional basketball player and I have a learning experience ahead of me. But I’ll be ready.”
Cole, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds, said he looks forward to seeing Woodbury improve over the years.
Recent Hawkeye transfer Jared Uthoff had a strong showing in his first competitive game after playing his freshman year at Wisconsin. He scored 13 points and matched that with 13 rebounds, including 11 in the second half, to finish with a double-double.
“It felt really good out there to finally play in Iowa again,” Uthoff said.
Andre Murphy provided a nice opening game with 18 points and four assists.
The first game’s star belonged to Hawkeye veteran Zach McCabe, who made seven 3-pointers en route to a game high 29 points. He also recorded 10 rebounds for double-double.
Hawkeye sophomore Aaron White provided fans with the game of the night in the second of two games. He scored 40 points and added 16 rebounds, making it look easy as he made 3-pointers and dunked on the fast break.
“I was just feeling it tonight,” White said.
The turnout on Tuesday points to a level of excitement building for the 2012-13 season.
“(Judging) by the amount of fans we had tonight, it’s great to see that this whole town and this whole state is behind us,” Gesell said.