Cary boys basketball coach Allan Gustafson was a bit worried. He had a freshman on his varsity team who hadn’t said a word in almost a month. The coach asked Cory Gensler’s father Paul, “Is everything OK? Would he have more fun on JV?”
Paul Gensler let Gustafson know that Cory was having a great time; he just didn’t show it the way most players would. And Gustafson would have to get used to that workmanlike attitude.
“Wait ‘til you see his younger brother Kyle,” Paul Gensler said.
The arrival of the low-key Gensler brothers, with junior Kyle 14 months younger than senior Cory, helped spark a turnaround at Cary, which plays Charlotte Catholic for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship Saturday at the Dean Smith Center at 7:30 p.m.
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And they’ve done so with a no-nonsense, sometimes solemn, demeanor that contrasts with their basketball peers but works for both.
“I guess as a family we’re kind of like that. We don’t get real (gung-ho) and wound up about things; we don’t get too high, we don’t get too low,” Paul Gensler said. “We try to go about our business every day. I guess along the way, they picked up on that.”
The family resemblance is seen after a highlight play or big shot.
They’re steely-eyed competitive. You’re never going to get anything outwardly emotional, but you can look into their eyes and tell they’re going at each other.
Cary boys basketball coach Allan Gustafson
Kyle inbounded the ball to Cory, 4.7 seconds before Cory’s game-winning 3-pointer defeated Garner 71-69 in overtime Saturday. When the ball sailed through, Cory’s face was unmoved. Kyle’s was as well, although he was among the first to pile on top of Cory in celebration.
Cory had also hit the tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation on a pass from Kyle.
“Cory’s getting some recognition that he knocked down some shots, and we’re thrilled with that, but Kyle was right there with him just like he has every step of the way,” Paul Gensler said.
Cory Gensler has 1,946 points, believed to be the most in school history, entering Saturday’s title game. His brother Kyle, also a varsity player since his freshman year, is a 3-point threat and a baseball standout.
The competition between the two, whether it’s ping pong or a video game, drives them to get better.
“I think I can remember one time when Cory came up for a workout where Kyle wasn’t there because he wasn’t feeling well,” Gustafson said.
The Genslers’ work ethic has raised the bar for other players. Cary won five games Cory’s freshman year, 12 the next, 18 the following season and 31 this year.
But you couldn’t tell the difference in one season to the next if judging just by the Genslers’ faces. They still go about their business on the court echoing their father’s mantas.
“Play hard and have fun,” Cory said.
“Move on to the next play,” said Kyle.
“They have been very competitive in their own way,” Gustafson said. “They’re steely-eyed competitive. You’re never going to get anything outwardly emotional, but you can look into their eyes and tell they’re going at each other.”