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All grown up

Even at 6-8, it tok Gutekunst time to be 'The Man" at Hood

Even at 6-8, it tok Gutekunst time to be 'The Man" at Hood

February 05, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

FREDERICK, Md. - Jesse Gutekunst's basketball career, it seems, has come full circle.

The Hood College junior knows what it's like to be play a supporting role to "The Man" - when he was second fiddle to David Miner at South Hagerstown - and what's it's actually like to be "The Man," which is what he's become for the rapidly improving Blazers.

Always a solid contributor for Hood (16-5, 9-3 Capital Athletic Conference) - he averaged 11.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a freshman and 14.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as a sophomore - Gutekunst has made the leap to become the Blazers' leading man. The 6-foot-8 center was averaging 18.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game while shooting 63 percent through Tuesday.

Along the way, Gutekunst has picked up several conference, state and national honors, including twice being named the D3Hoops.com Player of the Week.

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"It's exciting, and a little surprising," said Gutekunst. "Coach (Tom Dickman) told me if I got into shape and came into this season ready to play, I'd get some national attention. The first time I made the Division III team of the week was a shock."

"He's the backbone of our team," Dickman said. "We play very well when he's on the floor. He's a very good player, and who knows, he might be an All-American before he leaves."

Through Jan. 28, Gutekunst ranked 96th nationally in scoring average, 19th in rebounds per game, 15th in field goal percentage and 22nd in blocked shots per game.

"He's a difference maker," Dickman said. "If he's on your team, you can compete with some better D-III teams in the country. ... He's continually getting better. He has things you can't teach. He catches the ball well and uses his body well."

With 24 points Saturday against Catholic University, Gutekunst has 1,025 points in his Hood career. He's the second player in the Blazers' four-year history to pass the 1,000-point milestone, joining Santo Provenzano.

But it's team goals that interests Gutekunst more, and Hood has plenty of them to go after. The Blazers are in the thick of the race for the CAC title and have their sights set on a Division III national tournament berth.

"I've always been a team-oriented guy. I could care less if I score zero if we win," Gutekunst said.

Gutekunst said the change from a supporting role at South to a leading role at Hood was difficult at first, but that he relishes the opportunity now.

"At South, I was more of a role guy with Miner there," Gutekunst said. "Here, I'm our main offensive threat. Everything we run, I'm the first option. At South, I mostly played defense and rebounded. Here, I do it all. It's a good feeling to know all the other guys are looking for me, and I'm comfortable having the ball. It's a three-year change, it didn't just happen."

"It was an adjustment his first year, his first 10 or 15 games," Dickman said. "He had to feel his way through it. ... He had to adjust to being the first option and get used to having the ball. His freshman season, he'd get the ball inside and throw it right back out, and we'd tell him, 'Jesse, we're throwing it in there for you.'"

Now, Gutekunst is making opponents pay.

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