The Dayton Flyers senior is playing the best basketball of his life, and life beyond basketball looks even better. The best part? His current role is a testament to what he learned at home.
There were no thunderous dunks, like Obi Toppin’s with five minutes remaining – a play so perfect in is suddeness of execution that it sucked the air out of UD Arena.
There were no highly contested three-point shots from 30 feet, like Omaha’s KJ Robinson used in the second half to keep the Mavericks at least within calling range of the Flyers.
No, what the St. Henry senior did would have gone largely unnoticed except to the most ardent basketball junkie – a back door cut to the rim in the first half where he caught a lob from teammate Jalen Crutcher and with one hand (and one motion) scooped it into the basketball while drawing contact and a foul. He converted the ‘old fashioned’ three-point play.
And owing to the diversity of his game, there was the top-of-the-key three pointer midway through the second half – all net – as the Flyers staved off a three-point comeback attempt by Omaha shooters Robinson, and J.T. Gibson.
But the prettiest of all was the bucket with five minutes left, where he found an open teammate under the rim with what coach Anthony Grant would later call, the “extra pass”…textbook basketball, the coup de gras, if you will, from a talented team that’s “beginning to discover what it’s capable of doing.” Those, too, were Grant’s words.
“I’m kind of a facilitator, or a handyman,” Mikesell would later say to a reporter asking his specific role with this year’s 3-0 Flyers. “I can do a little bit of everything, I guess. If I need to score I can do that. If I need to distribute the ball I can do that, too.”
Or, he can clamp down on an opposing scorer, a concession to the hard work he’s dedicated to defense in his five years at Dayton. Without question, it was a deficiency when he arrived on campus. At 6’7″ his height alone allowed him to protect the rim in high school. But here – now – you play defense with your feet and your mind. Anticipation and knowledge of the court and opponent is so much more a part of it.
“He does a lot for us,” said Grant, responding to a post-game question about the former St. Henry Redskin, who learned his basketball A, B, Cs under coach Eric Rosenbeck (aka Rosie).
“He can do a lot of things, but he’s also very smart,” Grant added. “He understands out there…what’s going on. He’s a senior now and his experience is a huge factor for us.”
Mikesell played 26 minutes in Tuesday’s win, hit 6 of 11 attempts from the field (including a pair of three-pointers), he had four rebounds, a pair of assists, and a steal in what Anthony Grant later called the Flyers best performance to date, albeit in just three games.
But it was the play late in the game, where Mikesell made the extra pass, found teammate Trey Landers alone under the rim, and snapped a pass through the Omaha defense and right on target for the bucket – a textbook play – that delighted broadcasters and media alike along press row. Smart, experienced, and testimony to his already-completed degree in engineering – a tribute to how he was taught back at St. Henry.
“Rosie would have loved that play,” I reminded him as he talked in the post-game room. He smiled broadly, a fond memory of home and the fun of playing high school basketball.
“You’re right,” he laughed. “The extra pass. Rosie WOULD HAVE LOVED that play.”