Somewhat lost in the improbable rise of Iowa freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons is how well his more-celebrated freshman backcourt teammate has handled it.
Ten games into their careers, Clemmons is playing the role that most figured prize recruit Mike Gesell would have as Iowa’s starting point guard and floor general.
Clemmons solidified his role as the starting point guard with his masterful performance during Friday’s 80-71 victory over Iowa State, which included him scoring 14 points, dishing out eight assists and committing just one turnover.
The same kid who barely had any scholarship offers coming out of high school in Lansing, Mich., had his way with the Cyclones while being matched against fifth-year senior point guard Korie Lucious.
But Clemmons also had Gesell at his side for most of the game.
Gesell’s freshman season has been rocky at times, including during parts of Friday’s game. He only made 2-of-10 field-goal attempts against the Cyclones, but he still made plays, effort plays, unselfish plays; the kinds of plays that help make the difference in a hotly-contested game.
Gesell also made all six of his free throws, including four in the final minute to help secure Iowa’s eighth victory in 10 games this season.
“My shot wasn’t falling at all in the first half and I knew I just had to stay aggressive,” Gesell said. “I knew I could still contribute to the team in different ways. So I tried to get after it defensively and crash the boards because (Iowa State) is such a good rebounding team.
“So I just looked to make an impact in other ways.”
Nobody has been affected more by Clemmons’ emergence than Gesell. Both players were recruited to play point guard, but Gesell, as a consensus top-100 recruit, was more of a priority.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery pounded the recruiting trail in order to land Gesell out of South Sioux City, Neb., , whereas Clemmons received a scholarship offer from McCaffery much later in the recruiting process.
Gesell said he prefers playing point guard, but he’ll do whatever it takes for the sake of the team. It won’t be easy being a 6-foot-1 shooting guard in the Big Ten, but Gesell has enough talent, enough focus and more than enough determination to pull it off. He now also has three games under his belt as the starting shooting guard. The transition should get easier with each game.
It’s exciting to think about the future with Gesell and Clemmons playing alongside each other in the backcourt.
Gesell is used to being the center of attention, even as a guard, but now the circumstances are different with him being asked questions about Clemmons, who has started the last three games at point guard.
“Anthony did tremendous,” Gesell said after Friday’s game. “Lucious is a very tough guard. He can shoot it and he’s one of the quickest players in the country I would say. Anthony overall did a tremendous job on offense and defense.”
McCaffery told reporters after Friday’s game that he was proud of Gesell for overcoming a tough first half. McCaffery challenged Gesell at halftime and Gesell delivered with the game on the line.
Gesell also deserves praise for how he’s handled Clemmons’ emergence. It helps that Gesell, who started the first seven games at point guard, is talented enough to play both guard positions because he and Clemmons can play together instead of costing each other minutes.
But it also helps that Gesell is a good kid who understands what it means to play a team sport. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices and check your ego at the door.
Gesell has sacrificed on behalf of Clemmons and on behalf of the team. And by doing so, Gesell has made Iowa a better team.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball