When it rains news about 18-year olds, it pours news about 18-year olds, apparently. On the heels of good news in the world of football and wrestling recruiting, we now have word that the Franimal has landed a top target in his 2012 recruiting class, Mike Gesell. In fact, it's difficult to undersell the importance of landing a recruit like Gesell for Fran and the Iowa basketball program. He's the most highly-touted prospect to commit to Iowa since at least Matt Gatens, and probably even farther back (Tyler Smith, perhaps?). He's a consensus 4* talent according to Rivals, Scout, and ESPN, and Rivals (#89) and ESPN (#80) both place him among their Top 100 national prospects for 2012. Gesell wasn't awash in offers from blue-chip programs, but he had offers from several very solid programs, including all the local options (Iowa State, UNI, Drake, Creighton, Nebraska) and some national attention from Stanford and Utah.
He's also the first elite
in-state in-region prospect to choose Iowa in quite some time. Gatens was a well-regarded prospect, but recruiting him to Iowa was like selling a dog on the merits of steak: he was a legacy recruit who'd grown up in Iowa City and ate, drank, and lived Iowa hoops since birth. It would have taken serious anti-recruiting skill to get him to not come to Iowa, frankly. Gesell didn't grow up in the shadow of Carver-Hawkeye Arena and his only memories of Iowa being anything but a bottom-feeder are likely limited to the heartbreaking '05-'06 team that got Northwestern State'd in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Being able to sell him on coming to Iowa in its current state seems like a pretty glowing endorsement of Fran's abilities as a recruiter.
Gesell heads into his senior season as one of the more successful prep players in the region in recent years; he's led South Sioux City to back-to-back state titles (those would be Nebraska state titles since he's on the wrong side of the Missouri River) and was named the Nebraska state player of the year a year ago. His primary strength is his scoring ability; he averaged 25.2 ppg, 8.2 apg, 5.5 rpg, and 2.9 steals a year ago. He has good range from outside and is also athletic enough to finish well around the rim; the main knocks on him are his strength and defense -- fortunately, those are two things that can be improved with good coaching and conditioning at the college level.
Landing Gesell is also important because he plays a position of critical need for Iowa. Considering that the only true point guard Iowa has on this year's roster is senior Bryce Cartwright, odds are good that Gesell is going to be asked to hit the ground running when he arrives at Iowa in fall 2012. It's not often that you can pencil in a true freshman as a starter, but barring some strange happenings in the recruiting game over the next year, there's a very good chance that Gesell will be directing the Iowa offense on opening day in 2012. Finally, while landing Gesell is exciting enough in its own right (big-time recruit, local kid, position of immense need), it gets even more interesting when you consider the possible domino effect of his commitment: two of Gesell's AAU teammates and close friends are fellow Iowa recruits Adam Woodbury (a 4* center out of Sioux City) and Kale Abrahamson (a 3* small forward out of West Des Moines). If he can convince them to keep the band together in college, Iowa could have its best recruiting class in many years on its hands -- exactly the sort of talent collection that Fran needs to pull Iowa out of the depths of the Big Ten.