LINCOLN — The basketball player on Saturday with the fondest memories of the soon-to-be-retooled Devaney Center likely will be wearing black and gold, not red and white.
Iowa guard Mike Gesell, a freshman out of South Sioux City, Neb., spent a lot of time in Lincoln in early March the past three years and had a lot of success. His South Sioux City Cardinals won Class B state titles in 2010 and 2011, and were the runners-up in 2012.
Now, Gesell is about to get his final look at the Devaney as a basketball venue when Nebraska (12-14, 3-10 Big Ten) hosts the Hawkeyes (17-9, 6-7).
“I definitely have some great memories from there,” Gesell said from Iowa City. “The new arena looks like it's going to be extremely nice. But Devaney is an awesome atmosphere. I played a lot of fun games there.”
That fun has followed Gesell into college.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has started all 26 games, averaging 9.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He is shooting 39.7 percent from the field and 74.5 percent from the foul line.
“I've had some ups and downs,” he said. “I went through a couple of shooting slumps — natural things that occur during a season. But overall I know I'm working hard.”
He also feels he made the right choice in signing with Iowa over Nebraska.
“There are no regrets at all,” Gesell said. “I love everything about Iowa. I love my teammates, love the coaches and love the school in general.”
His work has impressed Husker coach Tim Miles.
“He's a heck of a player. Very impressive,” Miles said. “Fran (McCaffery) and his staff did an excellent job recruiting him. He's a great fit for their program.”
Gesell's strong decision-making for the Hawkeyes comes through in film sessions.
“He finds guys in the window off screen and roll, he delivers the ball and he can make shots,” Miles said. “He's an excellent player, and he's going to be a really good player in the Big Ten.”
McCaffery hasn't made the transition to college ball easy for Gesell, who started the season at point guard, then moved to shooting guard and now is back at the point.
“It hasn't been too bad,” Gesell said. “I just like to be out on the floor, regardless of position.”
In AAU play the past few summers, Gesell said he got used to both spots while playing with guard Marcus Paige, now at North Carolina.
“We would switch back and forth between playing the 1 and the 2,” Gesell said. “So it wasn't anything new for me.”
Iowa comes to Nebraska with a three-game Big Ten winning streak, its longest in six years. That surge has inserted the Hawkeyes into the NCAA tournament discussion.
“That's been the goal since the offseason,” Gesell said. “We've got to stay focused and take care of our business. But I think we're only going to improve.
“We're a very deep team. We're playing nine or 10 guys. If someone needs a rest, we can bring guys in and not lose a beat. That helps us push the tempo and will help us down the stretch in the season.”
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