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Big Ten

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Flying Tomato’s game ripening

Spiece forward has offers on table, but stock is on the rise

Kessinger

– They call him The Flying Tomato.

“He looks like Opie Taylor,” his coach, Jim Reamer, said at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis. “He plays like Brian Scalabrine.”

It makes sense: Bronson Kessinger, a Corydon junior, picked the former Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls forward as his favorite player.

Scalabrine and Kessinger share several traits, among them red hair, pasty-white skin and countless freckles.

They also have great nicknames. Scalabrine was known as “The White Mamba” in the NBA. And Kessinger coined his, “The Flying Tomato” – an accurate take on how he plays, how he looks and his light-hearted personality.

The Spiece Indy Heat 2015 forward is pretty good at his sport of choice, too – despite all the stereotypes that come with the way he looks.

“I talk to coach (Greg) Lansing from Indiana State pretty much every other day,” said Kessinger, a 6-foot-7 swingman who has offers from IUPUI, Indiana State and IPFW. “I text Stanford pretty much every day. I hear from Clemson, Illinois State, Indiana, Purdue, Xavier, Butler, Western Kentucky, Evansville and a bunch of other schools.”

The Hoosiers and Boilermakers are hot on Kessinger’s trail. He can play in the post, at the rim and on the perimeter.

He also has a lot of athleticism – both for a redhead and among 2015 prospects.

“Mainly, Indiana and Purdue and all those schools are telling me to keep extending your game like you have been,” he said. “Schools want to use me as a mismatch problem – that’s what the majority of them tell me. Post up somebody that’s smaller, and somebody that’s a little bit slower than me, just take them outside and drive them.”

Kessinger has some swagger to him, Reamer said, but is teachable and respectful. He has gone from an unknown player in the state to a red-hot commodity in the past year.

More offers will be on the way, perhaps even this weekend, if Kessinger continues to do what’s expected of him by the Spiece 2015 coaches.

“He’s responding; he’s playing at the rim early, it opens things up,” Reamer said.

“It gets him in the flow of the offense a little bit more. He’s had opportunities to drive the basketball. He’s had opportunities to score from the mid-post and hit a midrange jump shot.”

He also rebounds very well at his position, be it small forward or power forward. Reamer said that will be a key for him at the next level.

So, too, is the ability to make the most of the mismatches Kessinger provides.

“It’s just about him stretching out his game,” Reamer said. “It isn’t just about range. It’s about being efficient with the ball.

“If you look at his body, he’s got the perfect basketball body. He’s long, he’s got broad shoulders, he’s got thick forearms, he’s got thick calves. … You can’t really draw a player up any better.”

But opponents seem to still be surprised when a redheaded, freckled kid throws down a dunk on them. In July, he’s already gotten a chance to do so in front of coaches in the Big Ten that might be looking to bring The Flying Tomato to their campus.

Indiana and Purdue have played host to Kessinger for several unofficial visits.

“We had a lot of coaches like Tom Izzo, Tom Crean,” said Kessinger, who also noted Indiana associate head coach Steve McClain and Purdue watched him this week.

“You watched them growing up on the sidelines – never thought you’d get the opportunity to show what you have.”

So far, the 2015 prospect has done a good job of proving his skills. And as usual, he’s taken the good-natured jokes about his looks in stride.

“Just enough of a trait of the way he plays and the way he looks,” Reamer said. “He looks like a big tomato. We all make fun of him because he looks like Ronald McDonald at times, especially with the red shoes.

“If we come out next year with yellow and red uniforms, he’s quitting. Those are the parameters under which we coach him.”

smorrison@jg.net

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