• Photo Showcase: 2012 All-Nebraska teams
• Video Below: View a series of videos from the all-state photo shoot
• Interactive: See a photo project featuring this year's All-Nebraska honorees
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Mike Gesell went the distance for South Sioux City.
The Iowa recruit never missed a game, never missed a start at point guard in four years. All the time, he carried the high expectations that began with the college offers he received before his first high school game.
"I don't think I've ever seen a kid work as hard and work on the things he needed to improve,'' South Sioux coach Terry Comstock said. "There's a lot who come in the gym and they work, but they do the things they already do well because it makes them feel good. Mike was making himself better. He wanted to be an all-around player."
Gesell's prep career ends with a place on the All-Nebraska first team for the third consecutive year. He's only the fourth three-time selection in 98 years of World-Herald all-state teams, joining Ike Mahoney of Omaha Commerce (1919 to 1921), Ron Kellogg of Omaha Northwest (1980 to 1982) and Antoine Young of Bellevue West (2006 to 2008).
No. 5 could be Akoy Agau a year from now. The Omaha Central junior, who has multiple power-conference college offers as a 6-foot-9 shot blocker, is also a repeat selection on the first team, as is record-setting Norfolk point guard Jalen Bradley.
Their new all-state teammates are Millard North junior Josiah Gustafson and Omaha Gross senior Dylan Travis. They are the first All-Nebraska players from their schools, and each was among the top scorers and rebounders in his class.
On the All-Nebraska second team are seniors Trey Bardsley of Beatrice, Connor Beranek of Class C-2 state champion Ravenna, Trey Moore of Papillion-La Vista and Alex Starkel of Norfolk and junior Tra-Deon Hollins of Central.
The third team consists of seniors Zach Clemens of Class B state champion Scottsbluff, Austin Groth of South Sioux City, Ethan Montalvo of Omaha Bryan and Kiefer Musiel of Lincoln North Star and junior Cam Williams of Omaha South.
Nominations of coaches and observations of The World-Herald's sports staff determine the teams. All schools received nomination forms by email.
Gesell averaged 25.1 points as a senior to finish his career with 2,112 points. His total ranks third all-time among Class B scorers and 15th overall. The 6-2 guard also averaged seven assists and six rebounds a game this season.
"He expanded his game so much and became much more of a leader,'' Comstock said. "He was able to shoot the 3, take it to the basket and had the midrange jumper he was always so known for. With his competitive nature, he wants the ball in his hands to make plays."
Iowa's assurances that he would play point guard contributed to Gesell's decision to sign with the Hawkeyes. Since then, Comstock said, Gesell's workouts have focused on what he'll need to be effective in the Big Ten.
"He's going to guard other point guards and needs to handle that physical play,'' Comstock said.
Agau has started on Central's past three state championship teams — no player in Class A has started on four — and helped the Eagles win Class A for the sixth time in seven years. In the 55-38 win over Omaha South in the title game, he had a triple-double of 16 points, 14 blocked shots and 13 rebounds. His 92 blocked shots for the season are a school record.
"He has the ability to take over when he needs to,'' Central coach Eric Behrens said. "He'll happily defer to some of his teammates when we don't need him to score a lot. He's unselfish, and that's uncommon for someone of his caliber. He's not one to ask how many shots he got."
In the next year, Behrens said, Agau will have to become more of an offensive force — especially scoring while being fouled and getting to the line for a three-point play.
"He's not an immediate offensive impact player for a college team, but defensively he would make a huge impact right now,'' Behrens said. "He has another year. His overall skill set is good. He needs some polish. If he would take the stuff we see from him at workouts and play that way, you'd say, 'Wow, this kid is really good on offense.'''
|Click the image to launch an interactive project featuring this year's All-Nebraska honorees, and pick up a print edition to see five full pages of coverage.|
Bradley finished as Norfolk's all-time leading scorer and fifth in Class A history with 1,638 points. His career free-throw percentage of .934 is the state record and ranks second all-time nationally. he was 342 of 366 over four seasons.
In the past week, the 6-foot point guard committed to Division I UNO.
"They're getting an ignitor for their program," Norfolk coach Ben Ries said. "He can set the culture and tone of a work ethic and have success. He's going to be surrounded by some pretty good players. He's definitely one I want on my side."
Gesell and Bradley are alike in drawing praise from their coaches for being hard workers and team leaders. Where the summertime teammates differ is that point guard is a position Bradley has played only the past two seasons.
"It's not something natural for him, so he had to grow into it," Ries said. "He averaged about five assists this year, which was something that was definitely noticeable."
Gross' Travis, a 6-2 guard-forward, averaged 24.5 points and 8.9 rebounds while becoming the Cougars' all-time scoring leader with 1,680 points. His 661 points this season and 45 points in a district semifinal against Ralston also were school records.
"Dylan was a great player before, but he improved all aspects of his game," Gross coach Tim Powers said. "He got a little stronger, which helped him. His scoring went up, his shooting percentage went up. He scored more while not shooting more.
"He made the players around him better. He helped our team in other ways besides scoring. He had to guard the other team's best player. He averaged five assists a game. That was why he was much better — he became such a good passer. He played unselfishly, I thought."
Gustafson, a 6-5 guard-forward, took Millard North back to the state tournament by averaging 19.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
"He's gotten so much stronger and so much more on balance around the basket. It equates to different ways of him scoring,'' Mustangs coach Chip Bahe said. "He's just a really good team player. He grew as a leader. He went from a sophomore player with an older brother on the team to a good leader and a good worker."
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• Video: Behind the scenes look at the All-State photo shoot:
• Video: World-Herald prep writers Stu Pospisil and Mike Patterson challenged two All-State players to a free-throw shooting contest. See who won:
• Video: Omaha Central's Akoy Agau, with some help from Norfolk's Jalen Bradley, put on a show: