Last of the elite

Sean Joseph

Coaches dub Nate Gerwig team ‘warrior’ as he perseveres through several injuries


Credit: Carl Schierhorn

In school history, the Kent State men’s basketball team has only won the Mid-American Conference regular-season championship twice. Senior center Nate Gerwig is the only person to win it both times.

Gerwig is the only player remaining on the roster from the 2001-2002 Elite Eight season. But he has had a substantial history of injuries in his career and was redshirted his junior year.

His position coach, assistant coach Rob Senderoff, described Gerwig as the team’s warrior. Senderoff has been in Kent four out of five of Gerwig’s seasons and has helped him through the injuries.

“He’s had so many injuries. The fact that he’s still committed to this, playing hard, diving for the ball and taking charges tells a lot about his character,” Senderoff said. “He’s one of those guys you’re always glad to have on your side and not on the other team.”

Before his freshman year, Gerwig was an honoree on the MAC All-Freshman Team. He started 26 of the last 28 games his freshman year, shot a team-leading 68 percent and got to play in the Elite Eight game against Indiana.

His freshman year was the only season he played 100 percent healthy. Injuries started plaguing him the summer after the team’s run in the NCAA Tournament. He broke his hand twice practicing during the off-season.

Eight games into his sophomore season, Gerwig was going for a layup at Cleveland State and dislocated his shoulder. The injury only benched him for one game, but he said playing injured all season made things worse.

Gerwig had shoulder surgery immediately after his sophomore season, forcing him to be redshirted and miss his junior season.

The first time Gerwig took the floor to practice after his shoulder fully recovered, he hurt his knee, requiring surgery in October of 2004 and eight games on the bench.

He started this year healthy and will exhaust his NCAA eligibility at the season’s end. But injuries continued to plague him when he sprained his MCL practicing during a California road trip over winter break, causing him to sit out a couple nights and wear a knee brace.

Considering Gerwig’s luck, he has not missed many games. Senderoff said some sit out for six weeks with dislocated shoulders.

“I’ve tried to play through all my injuries,” Gerwig said. “I still try to come out and play no matter how hard it hurts. I’ve probably come back too soon before and made things worse, but I don’t like to be watching when I could be out there.”

Senderoff said he doesn’t know what Gerwig might have accomplished if injuries did not slow him down, but he does know he has persevered and even strengthened his work ethic.

Gerwig said he met Senderoff at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at 7 a.m. every day to swim one mile the year he sat out. He would also do physical therapy, practice shooting and hang out with senior forward Kevin Warzynski.

“Kevin (Warzynski) and I both sat out that year, and he really helped me get through it,” Gerwig said. “Kevin (Warzynski) transferred, so he had to sit out a year. He needed a place to live, and I had an extra room in my apartment.”

Both big men have lived together since and have formed a great friendship off the court that includes a lot of chess and video games, Gerwig said.

After Kent State, Gerwig said he wants to play professionally at some level but does not have any concrete plans. He is a criminal justice major and is taking the only two classes he needs to graduate this semester – civil law and German.

The Flashes (22-7, 15-2 MAC) are next in action tomorrow at Akron (20-8, 13-4 MAC) for their last regular season game which will be shown on FSN Ohio. They have already secured the top seed and a first-round bye for the MAC Tournament. The Flashes will begin tournament play at 7 p.m. Thursday in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].