Versatile Stesiak outlasted quarantine, adjusted to frontcourt leading Zebras to another Sectional
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Asked who his favorite basketball player is, Rochester senior forward Quin Stesiak said it is Tim Duncan.
The former forward-center for the San Antonio Spurs is in the Hall of Fame and earned five NBA championship rings due to spectacular, consistent fundamentals.
It’s a way that Stesiak identifies with. Though he hasn’t won at the rate that Duncan has yet, he’s a key part of Rochester’s sectional championship team.
He hit five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 20 points in the Zebras’ 53-50 win over Lewis Cass in the sectional final Saturday. It marked just the fourth time in his career that he had scored 20 or more points in a game.
“To do it two times back to back makes it a little more sweeter the second time,” Stesiak said. “Last year, the other seniors were leaders, and I was just playing my role and doing what we needed to do to win. But this year, kind of taking more of a leadership role but still going with the flow of the game and doing whatever needs to be done. It’s two different feelings, but they both still feel sweet.”
The Zebras are 18-1, and their lone loss was a 49-35 loss to Lewis Cass at home on Dec. 30. Stesiak didn’t play in that game due to a coronavirus-related quarantine.
The pause, which included coach Rob Malchow testing positive, meant that Rochester didn’t play from Dec. 4-23. In addition, the Stesiak household was hit with a quarantine on top of the team quarantine.
All in all, Stesiak missed 20 practices and two games.
“I wasn’t excited about it, but it was something we had to adjust to,” Stesiak said. “So I went with it. Once the time was over, I knew I had a little bit to make up because I missed more time than the other guys. So I worked towards that in working my way back.”
Stesiak was back in the lineup against Winamac on Jan. 5. He said he felt like he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. He said he just wanted to help with rebounding and energy. He didn’t score, but the Zebras won 40-32.
“I had to put more workload on myself just to try and get back to where I was,” Stesiak said. “But I accept that I wouldn’t be back to the point where I was where I left off. It’s something you’ve got to roll with and build off.”
He said he had to “knock the rust off.” He called the Wabash game, where he had 24 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-57 win on Feb. 12, a “break-out point.”
He said the coronavirus era means taking the season “one week at a time.”
“It was definitely weird,” Stesiak said.
Stesiak also had a team-high 17 points in a 52-35 win over North Newton in the sectional semifinals Friday.
Then, with a physical Lewis Cass team making points in the paint hard to come by, Stesiak stepped back outside and had the best 3-point shooting game of his career.
It was reminiscent of a time earlier in his career.
Stesiak got occasional bursts of varsity minutes as a sophomore, mostly as a spot-up shooter at guard. He and Grant McCarter had played guard together their whole lives, and the varsity minutes they were seeing usually came after playing three or four quarters of the JV game earlier that night.
The turning point for Stesiak’s career might have been a game at North Miami on Dec. 20, 2019. Riding a growth spurt, Stesiak now stood 6-2, and coach Rob Malchow moved him to the post, where he could be a scorer and distributor. Stesiak had seven points and eight rebounds, and Rochester pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 43-34.
“I kind of found my calling, I guess,” Stesiak said. “It kinda just came natural going down low.”
Stesiak started working on his low-post moves in practice after that.
Stesiak chuckles recalling Malchow telling him at practice that he had to play down low if he “wanted to play with the big boys.”
He had an even bigger game on Jan. 17, 2020, when seemingly all of his skills came together in front of a large crowd at Tippecanoe Valley. He scored down low. He attempted two 3-pointers and made both. He made seven of nine free throws. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 60-54 loss.
“They had some shorter players guarding me, so I got the mismatch down there … and I got a little mix of both that game,” Stesiak said. “So it was a good step in the right direction. … We got to build off that game, and it really helped us that season.”
Stesiak said he played football, basketball and baseball growing up, and he also spent time on the RHS tennis team. He said middle school was when his interest in basketball sparked.
His father Tony was the Rochester girls basketball coach when he was growing up and is a boys assistant coach now. Basketball was always on television growing up, and when he saw a player he liked or a move he liked, he would ask his father about it.
“I feel like watching helped evolve my game,” Stesiak said. “I would see what the high-level players were doing, and so I tried to take that and make it work for what I was doing.”
And the guy who caught his eye was Duncan.
“He wasn’t the flashiest player,” Stesiak said. “He wasn’t the fastest player. He’d just get the job done. I saw that and realized you don’t have to be flashy or fancy to get the job done.”
Quin is the third Stesiak sibling to make it to regionals. Keaton, a 2016 RHS grad, played on back-to-back Lady Z sectional championship teams, including the 2015 team that made semistate.
Older brother Trey, a 2020 grad, was Quin’s teammate on last year’s sectional title team.
Quin said Keaton has reminded him that she has been to a semistate and that he hasn’t yet.
He was asked which sibling he is most like personality-wise.
“Probably Trey,” Quin quipped. “Keaton talks too much.”
Then he was asked which of his siblings he more resembled as a player.
“Both,” he said. “Keaton played down low, and Trey was a more physical shooter.”
So you’re more a combination of the two?
“Yeah,” he said.