Standing Tall 1

Jon Teske takes game to new heights

Almost every day, and sometimes two or three times a day, Jon Teske gets the same question: How tall are you?

An 18-year-old senior at Medina High and the reigning MVP for Medina County boys’ basketball, Teske occasionally wants to give a sarcastic answer. But even when his mood is bad, which isn’t often, his polite nature won’t allow it.

Teske, who already has a full athletic scholarship to continue his basketball career at the University of Michigan, doesn’t go into all this detail, but here’s the answer to the question he gets, from people young and old, more than 500 times a year: He is 7 feet tall in bare feet and listed at 7-1 on Medina’s official roster.

“I’ve always been the tallest kid in my class, so I don’t worry about it anymore,” he says. “I just kind of roll with it and have fun with it.”

It helps that Teske’s height isn’t that notable at home. His father, Ben, is 6-8 and his mother, Julie, is 6-1. Both played basketball at Grace College in Indiana. Sister Hannah, a junior at the University of Akron and former high school swimmer, is 6-2, while younger sister Abby, a junior basketball player for Medina, is 6-0.

It helps, too, that Teske has seen where his height — and hard work —  can take him. He started on Medina’s varsity basketball team as a 15-year-old freshman, when he was 6-9 and 205 pounds, then grew to 6-11, 215 as a sophomore. Teske really blossomed as a 7-0, 230-pound junior, when he helped the Bees reach the Division I regional semifinals (final 16 teams), and now weighs almost 250 pounds.

Mixing occasional 3-pointers with an array of low-post moves, Teske averaged 16.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6.7 blocks in Medina’s final 12 games last season. More impressive, he did so against teams that had a combined 155-69 record (.692), six league championships and at least 10 major college prospects.

Teske is also the biggest reason why the Bees are one of the favorites to win the Greater Cleveland Conference this season, but except for becoming more vocal in terms of leading his teammates, his personality hasn’t changed much since his family moved from Michigan to Medina prior to his sixth-grade year.

“He’s quiet,” Bees junior point guard Ben Geschke says. “He’s not a very loud kid. He’s very focused on school. He’s just incredibly nice to everyone.”

Chris Hassinger, who took over the Medina boys’ program prior to Teske’s junior season but was coaching the girls’ varsity prior to that, is impressed not only by his star player’s development on the court, but also by the personality traits that have remained consistent throughout.

“A lot of times with big-time players come big-time egos,” Hassinger says. “It’s the total opposite with Jon. He’s an unbelievable human being. He’s just got it all, as a person and a player.”

Teske, who owns a 3.5 grade-point average and plans to major in accounting at Michigan, is highly unlikely to ever become a credit-grabbing, trash-talking player, but don’t be fooled by his quiet demeanor.

“He’s our best leader,” Hassinger says. “People don’t realize it. He’s the director of everything that goes on out there, especially defensively.”

Hassinger believes Teske, who faces constant double- and triple-teaming in high school, has a chance to become an All-Big Ten center at Michigan, but the coach’s praise doesn’t end there.

“I’m 100 percent sure he can play professionally somewhere,” Hassinger says. “The work ethic is there; the skill is there. There’s not many guys like him.”

For now, Teske is a high school student. Still needing to shave just once a week, capable of adding another 20 pounds of muscle without losing any mobility and possibly not yet done growing, he is learning to not only embrace his height, but use it to his full advantage.

“He doesn’t hesitate to tell anyone he’s 7 foot now,” his dad Ben says. “With his basketball development and Michigan (scholarship), he’s starting to see where it’s opening doors.”

Teske may have to duck a bit when he goes through those doors, but he’s not complaining.

“Everywhere I go, I know someone is staring at me, but I’ve kind of gotten used to that,” he says. “I have young kids running up to me all the time, so that’s nice. You never know how you might impact someone.”

Rick Noland is the assistant sports editor at The (Medina County) Gazette.