Hawkeyes' Gesell - and his foot - back to form

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NORTH LIBERTY -- Mike Gesell attacked the basket and his defender in Prime Time League action the way he did opponents last December. For Iowa, that's a good thing.

Gesell, a sophomore guard, showed no effects from a mid-season stress reaction that hampered his play the final six weeks. Thursday, he ran, he cut, he elevated and he accelerated in his team's PTL opener. Gesell scored 28 points, dished 11 assists and displayed plays with occasional flair, like a behind-the-back pass in the second half.

Afterward he was all smiles.

"I didnít touch a ball for a month and this is actually my first five-on-five game since the Baylor game," Gesell said. "I played a few four-on-four games, but I hadnít gone full five-on-five yet. So it feels good to be out there."

Gesell's foot kept him on the sidelines for the last two weeks of the regular season. He started for Iowa's two Big Ten Tournament games, but then was relegated to reserve action through the NIT. Doctors cleared Gesell last week for full workouts.

With 11:40 left in his game Thursday, Gesell drove baseline and stuffed a one-handed dunk. Seven minutes later, he took a breakaway at half-court and dunked with two hands.

"I slowly eased back into it, but Iím doing everything full and itís not getting sore or anything," Gesell said. "It feels pretty good."

For a player who rarely takes a day off from shooting a basketball, the time off was difficult for Gesell to digest. Gesell started 30 of Iowa's 38 games last year and averaged 8.7 points. He's the only Iowa freshman to score more than 295 points, dish 85 assists and grab 85 rebounds in a season.

"That was tough to do," Gesell said. "They told me I could start shooting a little bit but no jumping, nothing like that. So I made sure I stayed off it, I wanted it to be fully better. I didnít want it lingering around.

"I love playing the game of basketball. Itís just hard for me to take time off like that. I have to really stay disciplined. The coaches and everyone around me supported me and helped me do that."

Gesell, who stands 6-foot-1, said he's nearly back in top condition. He did learn how to reshape his game to compensate for the injury.

"It limited me in a lot of ways," he said. "I wasnít as explosive. I couldnít move certain ways. I had to try to be a little bit more crafty, and I think that helped me with my game. I t helped me slow things down and be selective."

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