For three seasons, Mountain Home’s Preston Groesbeck competed against future college athletes, from NCAA Division I all the way down.
So, it’s no wonder why the point guard’s high school coach and future college coach believe he won’t have a problem adapting to college basketball.
“He will have a lot less adjustment than other players that play at the next level, just because of the competition we play in our conference,” Mountain Home head coach Mitch Huskey said. “He’s not going to be playing against many players better than what he’s seen with North Little Rock and Jonesboro in our league. I see the next step being an easy transition.”
Groesbeck signed a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play basketball at North Arkansas College in Harrison.
Head coach Steve Hunter and the junior college Pioneers are coming off a team-record 23 victories last season, and Hunter believes Groesbeck can be a major contributor as a freshman.
“I sat up here and watched the North Little Rock game, and that’s a challenge,” Hunter said. “Playing that level of competition, it’s going to lend itself to some success, because he’s not going to be afraid of the moment. Some kids can’t adapt to playing at that next level right away, but the game’s not too big for him. He has a composure that’s going to help him, and he likes a challenge.”
The Pioneers came one win away from advancing to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament last season, something that drew Groesbeck to the team.
“Another big part of the decision was I wanted to go to a successful team,” he said, “a program I felt was rising. I felt like they’re increasing with some of the players they’re getting. We’re going to work hard, and we think we’ll be able to do it.”
There also was the style of play to consider.
“A lot of colleges I went to explained how they play the game and what offenses they run,” Groesbeck said, “and it excited me to know that they like to get up in transition and shoot threes, which I feel like I’m a good fit for. I think I’ll fit good in their system.”
The Pioneers averaged 87.2 points per game last season.
“His skills will allow him to have some success,” Hunter said. “We take open shots and we share the ball. We play nine or 10 guys, and all that is going to help him out as far as a chance to play at the next level.”
Groesbeck is excited to face a quicker tempo at the shot-clock level.
“I’m anxious, just because in high school, we worked on working the ball around until we got an open shot,” he said. “In college, it’s different because when that clock goes down, you have to do something. I’m excited to make a change and see what it’s like.”
Hunter said the Pioneers are losing several guards from last year’s team and Groesbeck will be competing for a spot right away.
“I love fighting for positions,” Groesbeck said. “I’ve had to do it in high school and my whole life. I’m excited to meet the guys and just battle for a position.”
And he’ll have a chance to do that every day in practice.
“Watching him here, I think the beauty of this is he’s going to be challenged every day in games and in practice,” Hunter said. “Coach Huskey does a good job of getting the best out of his kids and pushing them to their limits. I’m going to push him, because I think if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
“I like his ability to shoot and pass the ball. He’s a playmaker type. We try to find open guys for shots, and he can find the guy or shoot the ball.”
The locale of NorthArk was another factor in Groesbeck’s decision.
“I wanted to be close to my family, and it just felt right going there,” he said. “I’m definitely going to miss coach Huskey’s fiery emotions. I’m going to miss my teammates too, especially the seniors. We built bonds and friendships that never will be broken.”
Huskey has been the most impressed with Groesbeck’s maturation over the past three seasons.
“Preston playing point guard played a huge role for us,” Huskey said. “The leadership he had on the floor, and off the floor, in the locker room, he had our team ready to play every night. This team’s going to miss that a lot. He has matured as much as a player from his 10th grade year to his 12th grade year as much as any player I’ve ever coached. He became a leader and a great basketball player. It’s all because of how hard he’s worked over his career.”