Kyle Goessler was a 14-year-old freshman when a few minor injuries forced Brunswick basketball coach Joe Mackey to move him up to the varsity for a scrimmage against Barberton.
Basically told to stand in the corner and shoot 3-pointers if he was open, then try not to get beat too badly at the defensive end, the little red-headed kid who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed all of 140 pounds came off the bench and buried seven shots from behind the arc that day.
Inserted into the starting lineup for the next scrimmage, this one against Beachwood, Benedictine and Cleveland Heights, Goessler canned nine 3-pointers.
Birthdate: Nov. 25, 2000.
Family members: Parents Dave and Kim, sister Courtney.
Car: Toyota Camry.
Hobbies: Playing sports.
Favorite movie: “Coach Carter.”
Favorite athlete: Klay Thompson.
Favorite number: 1.
The best compliment I ever got was: “That I’m not only a great player but a better person.”
The thing I like most about sports is: “The competition and the rewarding feeling of winning.”
The thing I dislike most about sports is: “Losing and the feeling you’ve let someone down.”
My idea of the perfect day is: “To get a good workout in in the morning, come home and then hang out with my girlfriend or family.”
Four years later, after scoring a school-record 1,432 points and making a Medina County-record 225 3-pointers, the 6-2, 165-pound Goessler is The Gazette’s 2019 Senior Male Athlete of the Year.
“I basically just ran down to the corner, let everyone else do their thing and, if I was open and got the ball, I shot it,” he said of his freshman season. “Then I tried not to get scored on every time down the floor.”
The owner of a full ride to play basketball at Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan, Goessler is far from one-dimensional.
He lettered two years in golf, earning honorable mention All-Gazette honors after occupying the No. 1 spot for the Blue Devils as a senior.
He was a three-time All-Gazette pick in basketball, including MVP as a senior, when he averaged 21.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists while earning Greater Cleveland Conference co-Player of the Year and second-team D-I All-Ohio honors.
He was a two-year letterwinner in baseball, earning All-Gazette honors in 2019 after hitting .311 and playing a near-flawless shortstop for a Brunswick team that lost in 10 innings in the regional semifinals to eventual state runner-up Mentor.
Goessler carried a 4.3 grade-point average and ranked 12th in a class of 638 students, scored a 33 on the ACT and was a member of National Honor Society and Link Crew, a group that helps freshmen adapt to high school.
“He’s a great athlete, but he’s an unbelievable person,” Brunswick golf coach Chad Thompson said. “He’s the full package. He has that personality. He’s got that leadership, commitment and dedication to everything he does.
“I can’t say enough about the kid. He never once gave us the vibe of, ‘I’m a stud athlete; you’re below me.’ He was our No. 1 man all year (despite qualifying third). Why? Like I told him: ‘You’re the best leader on the team. You’re exactly the guy I want to lead our team every single match.’”
Hitting the links
Since parents Kim and Dave golfed — Dave was a member at Rosemont Country Club — Goessler took a few lessons when he was 7 years old. But unlike baseball, his first love, and basketball, which eventually took over as his favorite sport, he views golf as a leisurely activity.
“It’s a relaxing, stress-free game,” he said. “It gives me a nice rest from basketball physically. It’s fun to play with my friends and just enjoy the weather and everything about it.”
This doesn’t mean Goessler didn’t take his time with the Blue Devils seriously. When he was a junior, the loaded Blue Devils reached the state tournament behind an all-senior lineup, so Goessler played on the varsity White team and soaked up everything.
“We went and practiced with the Blue team every day, so I saw how hard they worked to achieve that goal,” he said. “I learned a lot from those guys and their work ethic.”
As a senior, Goessler used his customary 270-yard drives and short game to average 41.8 per nine holes and was the emotional leader of a team that had no returning starters yet qualified for the Pine Hills District.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Thompson said. “From a leadership standpoint, he was absolutely incredible with our younger kids. Anybody who was new to the game, I used Kyle as an example of how to practice. I talk to a lot of parents of kids, and they tell me Kyle was like a mentor to their kid. They rave about him. They can’t say enough about him.”
The 32-year-old Thompson also falls into that category. He remembers the day Goessler played his mandatory nine-hole practice round and was about to head off to basketball conditioning. Thompson then told the other members of the team the back nine was open, so they could play another nine holes if they desired. Goessler got wind of it and was there as well.
“He realized in that moment that whatever was going on with golf was a little more significant than an open gym from basketball,” Thompson said. “I never in a million years, when I met Kyle as a freshman, would have guessed that he would choose to play nine holes over basketball, because I knew how dedicated he was to basketball.
“If that kid would have found the love for golf that he did for basketball and put as much time into it as he did basketball, I honestly believe he could have been a Division I (college) athlete. He’s just that kind of athlete.”
Told his coach had said he could have been a D-I college golfer, Goessler quietly said, “That’s a very nice thing to hear from him, but I don’t know. Golf, to me, is a fun game. In my earlier years of high school, I got a little burned out, but my senior year, I had a blast.”
Though the Blue Devils didn’t duplicate their 2018 success, Thompson did as well, and Goessler was the primary reason.
“I’ve been around a lot of really good golfers, but I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed being around a player as much as Kyle this year,” Thompson said. “He’s so calm. He’s got a great mindset. I never once saw him get frustrated. He always figured out ways to bounce back.”
Taking to the hardwood
Goessler actually was part of the Brunswick varsity basketball program for eight years, having served as a ball boy from fifth through eighth grade.
“The high school players were like NBA players to me,” he said of early heroes like Ryan Badowski, Kyle Wheeler and Zach Parker. “Being able to go to practice and sit on the bench for games was so cool. All that stuff helped me coming into high school.”
That’s why Mackey hesitated only slightly when he moved Goessler up to the varsity as a freshman, then into the starting lineup for Brunswick’s first regular-season game. Goessler stayed there for four years and tied a county record by appearing in 97 games.
“His understanding of what we do on both ends of the court is better than any player I’ve ever coached,” said Mackey, who has been Brunswick’s coach for 23 seasons. “He picks up everything, and it’s very quickly.”
Goessler averaged a respectable 5.8 points and scored in double figures four times as a freshman, when Brunswick finished 21-5 and reached the regional semifinals before falling to Canton McKinley. Playing on a team that featured seniors Michael Quiring, Kevin Simmons, Zach Cebula and Aaron Badowski, he made three free throws the entire season.
“We told him, ‘Stand there and make open threes,’” Mackey said. “That’s all we needed him to do because we had so many great players around him.”
The summer before his sophomore year, an energetic, 15-year-old Goessler was trying to dunk during an open gym.
“At the time, it was kind of a joke,” he said. “I was getting close and I ran around and tried all the time. This one day, for some reason, I go up and I’m above the rim and I got one clean. Every day after that, I was able to do it.”
Realizing the Blue Devils had graduated a lot of seniors, Goessler expanded his game as a sophomore and earned All-Gazette honors for the first time. Forced to handle the ball more, he added a pull-up jumper and occasional drive to the hoop while averaging 15.2 points as Brunswick finished 16-8.
Having grown to 6-2, Goessler really blossomed as a junior, averaging 17.3 points and making 82 free throws — up from 45 the previous season — as Brunswick went 17-6.
After committing to continue his career at Hillsdale, Goessler was a marked man as a senior but still averaged 21.8 points and dunked for the first time in a game against Elyria. Later, he added two-hand slams to his arsenal. The Blue Devils finished just 11-13, but they might not have won five games without their do-everything point guard.
“If we didn’t have Kyle, I don’t know if we would have gotten five wins,” Mackey said. “Kyle just made everything better. He was our best scorer, our best ballhandler, our best passer, our best rebounder and our best defender. And he never came out of the game.
“He’s sneaky athletic. You look at him, you wouldn’t think he was much. Then he’ll two-hand dunk in the lane.”
For his career, Goessler shot .504 from the field, .416 from behind the arc and .888 at the line. Over his final two seasons, he was 165-for-181 at the stripe (.912).
“He’s been in our program forever,” Mackey said. “You don’t get to coach too many players like him. You get into this profession because you love to compete, but the beauty of our job is you get to meet kids like Kyle. He’s just one of those gifted athletes. Whatever he touches, he excels at.
“Kyle to me is family. He understands me as well as any player ever has, and I’m not an easy guy to play for. But he understands me, and I understood what made him go. It’s one of those relationships that won’t end with graduation.”
A fairly quiet kid not given to making outlandish statements, Goessler agreed, saying Mackey was “like a second father.”
“He’s one of the best basketball coaches around,” Goessler said. “He teaches you not only basketball, but life. He holds you accountable. He can go from getting on you to your best friend in a second. He’s a great mentor and I really look up to him.”
Diamond in the rough
Goessler started at shortstop for the Brunswick varsity as a sophomore but didn’t play baseball as a junior because he wanted to concentrate on AAU basketball and his pursuit of a college scholarship in that sport.
“It’s important for basketball recruiting,” he said of AAU. “There was a lot more availability. I was able to go to tournaments and get the look I was hoping for from Hillsdale. Telling (baseball coach Grant) Relic was tough.”
Goessler did make Relic a promise: If he got a basketball scholarship, he would rejoin the baseball team as a senior if he was worthy of a spot.
Basketball scholarship signed and in hand, Goessler did indeed return to baseball as a senior, with the original plan being to use him as a closer and not have him hit at all, in part because it had been almost two years since he had played the sport and in part because he had a lingering thumb injury from basketball.
“Then all of a sudden, one day at practice, I think he was bored of being a pitcher only,” Relic said. “He said, ‘Can I jump in at second base? Can I get in the cage?’ Sure enough, being the natural athlete he is, everybody was amazed he could not pick up a baseball or bat for two years and, after two weeks, it was like he had not missed a beat.”
A few injuries to outfielders forced Relic to make some changes, and Goessler soon was back playing shortstop, this time while batting leadoff.
“I remember looking at Kyle and saying, ‘Whether you want to or not, you’re going back to shortstop,’” Relic said. “He just said, ‘Coach, wherever you need me, I’ll play.’”
In addition to hitting .311 and playing great defense at the most important infield position, Goessler led the Blue Devils with eight doubles and seven stolen bases while scoring 15 times and driving in 15 runs.
“Coming off basketball, it was a tough transition,” he said. “I didn’t work on baseball much in the winter with all the basketball stuff. All the other kids were working on their game, but Coach Relic had a lot of faith in me and brought me up and threw me in at shortstop.”
Goessler accepted the challenge, albeit reluctantly at first.
“It goes to show how humble he is,” Relic said. “He would almost feel bad he was taking the position from someone who had put in all the work in the offseason, but once people saw what he could do on the field, they realized the better player was getting the reps.”
The owner of an 82 mph fastball despite not training all that much, Goessler wasn’t too sure of himself at the plate when the season started.
“I surprised myself a little bit with the hitting piece of it and ended up having a pretty good year,” he said. “I was nervous coming back to hit. In fact, I kept telling Relic I didn’t want to hit, but he threw me in and I got a couple hits early and my confidence skyrocketed.”
Like Thompson in golf, Relic is of the opinion that Goessler could have been a scholarship athlete in baseball had he loved it like he does basketball and devoted the majority of his time to it.
“His love for basketball, you can’t take that away from him,” Relic said. “If he had that love for baseball, we’d probably be sitting here talking about how basketball was his second love and he’d be going to at least a Hillsdale to play baseball.”
Goessler was thrilled to hear that comment, but he’s got no regrets about putting basketball first. He’s thrilled to be going to Hillsdale, even though it’s possible he may have gotten a D-I offer later, and remains as humble as ever.
“I like to think the last guy on the bench should be treated the same as all the starters,” he said. “I like to live by that. Everyone’s working hard, so they deserve the same treatment and respect. It’s important not to let the ego get too big, because there’s always someone who is better.”
Many of those lessons were taught to Goessler by his parents, and he will be eternally grateful for all they’ve done and continue to do for him.
“They’ve been huge for me,” he said. “I’m so thankful to have them. From driving me all over the place, my dad being my coach when I was little, my mom being the team administrator, the endless support, I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me.
“I’ve learned so much through sports,” he added. “Going all the way back to youth sports, I’ve had a lot of great coaches and teammates that have taught me a lot, intangibles like being on time, respecting others. There are a lot of important lessons that will live on with me.”