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BLOOMINGTON -- So here is Bronson Kessinger, red of hair, sturdy of frame, solid with basketball talent, a 6-6 prospect with a big question hanging over him:
What position will he play in college?
Could he develop into a big guard? A true small forward? A combo forward who can play the power position?
It's way too early to tell, which is a big reason why he has yet to land a scholarship offer. Kessinger is wrapping up his sophomore year at Corydon Central and is in the midst of a solid spring travel ball season for Spiece Indy Heat 2015. Indiana is looking at him. So are Butler, Michigan, Stanford (Cardinal coaches invited him to a June camp), Vanderbilt, Xavier and Belmont.
The offers, Spiece coach Jim Reamer said, will come. Perhaps next month when college coaches can begin contacting Kessinger. Perhaps once the July AAU evaluation period gets going.
“That's when coaches get serious,” Reamer said.
Kessinger showcased his own serious side by scoring 22 points to help Spiece Indy Heat upset Indiana Elite 77-67 in Sunday's adidas May Classic U16 title game. That's the same Indiana Elite team that had beaten Spiece four previous times, had soared to No. 1 among the nation's summer travel teams (yes, there's a ranking for everything) and had looked poised to win its third straight championship in this event.
Kessinger is listed at 6-6 and 185 pounds. For Spiece, he is a power forward, the same position he plays at high school.
Unless he grows another two to three inches, that likely won't be his college position. So where does he project in college? That answer, it seems, could be the difference between a high- and mid-major opportunity.
“I think Bronson, at least from Indiana's perspective, is they want to know more about position he is,” Reamer said. “What he's done a lot better this spring is really playing away from the paint and moving without the basketball. That helps his cause. Now all of a sudden he gets cleaner catches, which leads to easier shots. In a lot of instances, it puts him in a better position to be more active on the boards because he's not always buried underneath the rim.”
Kessinger has to prove he can consistently shoot from the outside, that he can defend and rebound and handle the ball at a high level. He must show he is a versatile player because that attribute is highly prized in the fast-paced college game.
“His decision making is better,” Reamer said. “He has to handle the ball better, but that just isn't dribbling. It's passing and catching and making better decisions.
“He understands different reads. He understands how to be a screener. No matter what level he ends up at, whether it's a middle or a high, he's going to be a kid who will be a screener. We've set things up where he's in a position to set screens and receive screens. That's really hard.”
The degree of difficulty has eased thanks to the development of Spiece teammate Derrick Smits, the 6-10 son of former Indiana Pacer Rik Smits. Reamer said Smits' offensive and defensive improvement, “lets us use Bronson away from the paint more than we have in the past.”
The result -- Kessinger is Spiece's second-leading scorer, and the team's best rebounder, “by far,” Reamer said.
“He gets deflections; he gets blocks; he gets his hands on loose balls. A lot of that is just being able to get him away from the rim on both ends of the floor.”
Kessinger's improvement is accelerated by facing strong competition. Besides what he faces in travel ball and high school ball, he maximizes his unofficial college visits. For instance, he guarded Cody Zeller during previous visits to Indiana. That's the same Zeller who just passed on his final two seasons at IU to enter the NBA draft, where he's projected as a lottery pick. Zeller is an All-America. Battling against that, even if Zeller wasn't in destroy-all-comers mode, was huge in getting Kessinger where he wants to be.
“He's got to be able, in his mind and in our mind,” Reamer said, “to become more of a 3 (small forward). At a level like a MAC or a Missouri Valley Conference, that might not make that much of a difference. He might already have his body and skill set ready to play at that level.
“The ability to play off the ball, to make good decisions, to get teammates open and to understand how to get himself open is very important. That makes it easier on him, because now he gets catches where defenders are covering instead of standing right next to him.”
So Kessinger plays and waits. He was 9-for-12, including 2-for-3 from three-point range, for his 22-point game against Indiana Elite. He showed a fearlessness the best players have.
The scholarship reward, you suspect, will be worth the wait.