Iowa head basketball Fran McCaffery is beginning to turn heads among fans in the state of Iowa and has even created a buzz on Twitter with some national pundits.
Many fans and media members are impressed with what he has done at Iowa in just a short time period. The 2012 class — his first full offseason of recruiting — features five players. Of those five players, two are top 100 recruits. He has two point guards, one shooting guard, a 6-foot-11 power forward and 7-foot-1 center.
There is reason to be excited in Iowa City.
I recently reached out to all five recruits to get an in depth Q&A interview. The third installment of this five-part series features South Sioux City, Nebraska, point guard Mike Gesell. Gesell is a top 100 player who is expected to play right away for the Hawkeyes next season. Here is our exchange. Here are the first two installments: Patrick Ingram and Kyle Meyer.
Troy Hyde: Your high school team has won two straight Class B titles. How does the team look this year and what are the chances South Sioux City High School wins a third straight championship?
Mike Gesell: I feel that if we continue to work hard we will have another very successful season. We will have a very small team but we are returning a good core of players, and as long as we play together we have a chance to be very successful.
TH: The statistics you put up last year were impressive, but what have you worked on in the offseason to improve your game and to help your team make another run at the championship?
MG: I’ve been working a ton on polishing my game as a point. I have put a major emphasis on improving my ball handling and finishing at the rim. I have also continued to work on my shot and just my overall understanding of the game that a point guard needs to have to control the flow of the game.
TH: Iowa fans are very excited about what Fran McCaffery has put together with the 2012 class. The talent is said to be good enough to field your own starting lineup with three guards, a power forward and a center. How excited are you to be playing for the University of Iowa and are you looking forward to continuing to play with your Martin Brothers teammate Adam Woodbury?
MG: I am ecstatic about everything going on for us right now. I love what the coaching staff is doing with the team, they have some very talented and hardworking players already there, and we have a great recruiting class coming in. It will also be a lot of fun getting to play with Woodbury because we play so well together and he is an outstanding player.
TH: I read recently that you want to play point guard in college and McCaffery was recruiting you for point guard and not a combo guard. That is one reason you chose Iowa, but what are some other reasons you went with the Hawkeyes instead of Nebraska and Stanford?
MG: When I visited Iowa this summer on an unofficial it just felt like home to me, and I instantly knew that I would get along great with the guys and the coaching staff. They really made me believe that they are turning the program around and I wanted to be a part of the special things going on. There were a lot of positives about the other two schools but in the end, Iowa just felt right.
TH: What role did you play in recruiting Adam? Adam said during his “decision” press conference that you and him talk just about every day. Does that mean you were actively trying to get him to come to Iowa?
MG: I definitely was. I am very close with him, he is an outstanding player, and on top of that I feel that we play very well together. I would be crazy to not want to play with him and I knew that I had to make it known to him that I would love to play with him but at the same time I was trying avoid adding any extra pressures on him because it can be a very tough decision to make.
TH: Do you know anything about the other three players that are committed to Iowa for 2012?
MG: I have not seen them play as much as I would have liked to, but I know that if McCaffery wanted them, then they can definitely play and they also have high character and will be fun guys to hang around.
TH: Living near Sioux City, Iowa, you obviously know Adam on a personal level and you know his game. Do you have any kind of relationship with the other Sioux City kid on the Hawkeye roster – Zach McCabe?
MG: Yes. I played against Zach quite a bit in high school, and we have even worked out a few times together. I know his game pretty well and I’m excited to get the opportunity to play with him.
TH: Coach McCaffery must have made a good impression on you during the in-home visit. What is it that you like about him and what vision of Iowa basketball that he had did you agree with?
MG: McCaffery expects nothing but the best out of the team. He has very high expectations for the team and has confidence in every one of his players and those are great qualities in a coach. I love how passionate, honest and hard-working he is, and I look forward getting to play for him.
TH: The one position that Iowa needed lots of help in last year from a depth standpoint was point guard. With two point guards coming during the class of 2012 do you feel any pressure to live up the expectations most Iowa fans have for you and the program?
MG: As a competitor, I love the expectations and I see them as positives and not pressures. I love the Hawkeye fans and I’m glad they have such high expectations because they deserve to see the Hawks back to what they once were. I believe that Bryce will have an outstanding year this year, and I will be continuing to work very hard to make an impact next year.
TH: Adam mentioned wanting to play for Iowa because he grew up a Hawkeye fan and wanted to change the program back into what it once was. Had the thought of being a part of a rebuilding project and succeeding ever crossed your mind in the recruiting process?
MG: Definitely. I don’t think that the timing for me could be any more perfect. With the coaching staff, players, new recruits and new facilities they have, I believe it is a recipe for success, and I can’t wait to be a part of it!