Norse dip into D2 well…again

Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics

Sign All-GLIAC guard, Dan Gherezgher

This past week, the Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team plugged a gaping hole in their roster, a sizeable void left behind with the graduation of point guard Michael Bradley and the outgoing transfer of star guard Marques Warrick (Missouri).  And using recent history as a guide, Head Coach Darrin Horn and his staff have decided that two is, in fact, better than one.

The Norse scoured the free agency market transfer portal and realized that, for the third straight season, a highly sought-after, proven Division II athlete may serve their needs better (and more immediately) than a low-to-mid major D1 player leaving a program due to lack of playing time or other issues.  In dipping into the same proverbial well they’ve used the last two years, the Norse pounded the D-II pavement and signed sophomore guard Daniel Gherezgher (6-4 -185 lbs) out of Michigan Tech University.

The athletic lefty hails from a small town on the outskirts of Milwaukee (Brookfield, Wisc.) and will bring with him to Highland Heights two full years of eligibility.  While Gherezgher admits he was not heavily recruited out of high school by D-I programs after his First-Team All-Greater Metro Conference career, he did still get offered by Michigan Tech of Division II’s highly competitive GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).  The GLIAC is widely known to be one the nation’s top three toughest D2 basketball conferences, and frequently sends athletes on to the D1 level in many different sports.

At Michigan Tech, Gherezgher started both his freshman and sophomore seasons and steadily built up his hoops resume by racking up accolades along the way.  As a true freshman, he snagged Second Team All-GLIAC honors while starting 22 of the Huskies’ 30 games in which he averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2 assists per game.  His sophomore campaign saw a glaring jump in production, as he averaged 15 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on his way to another Second Team All-GLIAC tab.

What’s most notable about Gherezgher’s production is not so much his per-game stats as the overall improvement visible in every aspect of his game. His freshman-to-sophomore field goal percentage jumped from 39.7% to 47.1%, and his accuracy from three from 27.6% to 33.8% while shooting a very respectable 77% from the free throw line for his career.  His assist-to-turnover ratio (109:126 = 0.9) would more than likely project him out to a combo guard, but in Horn’s positionless system, a player of Gherezgher’s length, athleticism and intense desire to play high-level defense will likely be used all over the court in the manner of a Sam Vinson-type role…which would include point guard.

The HoriZone Roundtable (HR) had the chance to go “1v1 With DG” recently – here’s how that shootaround went:   

HR:  So you’re jumping from the GLIAC to a mid-major college in a huge metropolitan area where basketball is life…what did your path look like to get here?

DG:  “My recruiting journey as a transfer portal player this year was pretty crazy. Coming out of high school I wasn’t heavily recruited by many coaches, so being reached out to by dozens of coaches this time around was a surprise to me. As soon as I entered the portal the first day, almost every D-II college in the country reached out to me on Twitter/X and even called me while I was still in class. Once the following Monday came around after the week I entered, D-I coaches were allowed to contact players and a couple schools had reached out. Once I got my highlights out on Twitter/X and other platforms, multiple D-I schools started to reach out and show interest, and more came after that. One thing that a lot of coaches mentioned they saw in me was that they liked was my three-level scoring and my size and IQ for a point guard and ability to create plays for others.”

HR:  Let’s give NKU fans a feel for what they might see out of you in Truist Arena come Fall.  What NBA players would you say you model your game around the most?  

DG:  “It’s hard for me to choose pro hoopers that have a similar play style to me, but if I had to choose, I would say a mix of De’Aaron Fox and D’Angelo Russell, since they’re both smooth lefties.” 

HR:  What was it leading up to your visit – or during your visit – that ultimately “sold” you on NKU?  

DG:  “What I know and like most about NKU is the staff that they have. On my visit I felt like I immediately clicked with all the coaches and athletic trainers, strength coach, etc. I also knew that coach Horn really believed in me as a player and appreciated who I was as a person even more. I felt like the program’s culture and standards fit me as a person and as a player for what I want to achieve the rest of my career. I appreciated how serious and committed they are to winning and developing their players. I got to be around the players and coaches and loved the relationship every guy had with every single person on the staff. I also thought Coach (Tyler) Janota, their strength coach, was by far the best I met compared to all the other schools I visited, which was important to me.” 

HR:  You’ve grown accustomed to playing home games in the 3,200-seat “Wood Gym” in Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex. During your NKU campus visit you got to step foot in the 10,000-seat Truist Arena…what was that like?

DG:  “I got to step foot in Truist Arena on my visit and I loved it. The resources they have I thought were top notch for a mid-major program, and everything seemed up-to-date and new. I got to sit in the stands and picture my whole family in Truist Arena cheering me on, and it just felt right.” 

HR:  It sounds like your recruiting popped off pretty quickly once D-I coaches were allowed to start courting transfer players…who was also in contention for your services?  And who would your back-up choice have been if your signing with NKU fell through?

DG:  (List submitted during interview)  Firm offers from… Northern Illinois, Houston Christian, Queens University (NC), Kennesaw State, Youngstown State.  Hard inquiries with possible offers incoming…Cal State-Fullerton, UAB, Wyoming, Drake, Southern Indiana, Marshall, Georgia Southern, Illinois State, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Belmont, Holy Cross, South Dakota, Saint Louis, Duquesne, Virginia Tech, Oral Roberts, Western Michigan, Akron, Texas A&M-Commerce, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Toledo.  Backup plan:  Kennesaw State. 

HR:  Now that you are officially signed, sealed and delivered in black and gold, what do you think you will be able to bring to the 2024-25 Norse squad?

DG:  “I think I would bring some guard play and experience to the squad next year, especially after two of their starting guards left this year. I think my playstyle fits Coach Horn’s system, and my feel and ability to make plays for myself and others off ball screens will fit right in with the offense and the guys around me. I believe my ability to play off the ball as well gives me versatility to be able to play around other guys and do multiple things Coach Horn wants me to do. Defensively, I think I could use my length and quickness on the perimeter to make plays and get deflections, too.”

HR:  Coach Horn often says he wants players who have the drive to play professionally after college…do you fit that mold?

DG:  “My career aspirations after college is to definitely play professionally overseas at the highest level I can achieve. That was something I told Coach Horn from the jump was important to me and he said he’d promise to hold me to that standard and develop me into a pro if I came to NKU. I feel like my aspirations were something that me and Coach Horn clicked on immediately, and I knew the coaching staff at NKU would be committed to developing me into the best player I can be to win games and achieve my personal goals of becoming a professional basketball player after college.”

Losing key players like Michael Bradley and Marques Warrick can throttle a program quickly if its not prepared to move forward when the time comes.  But if history is any guide and Gherezgher can follow in the footsteps of fellow D2-to-D1 transfers Xavier Rhodes (Florida Southern) and Michael Bradley (Mercyhurst), the Norse may just be able to not only absorb the losses of key contributors, but move forward with a new generation of playmakers.

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Freelance Writer and Staff Writer for the HoriZone Roundtable, covering college basketball, the Horizon League and Northern Kentucky University athletics.

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