Teams put a lot of pressure on Michael Meserole to keep him from scoring, and one bit of proof of that intensity can be traced to name-brand evidence.
Such as the inside of his left forearm.
Facing a Sierra Valley Conference opponent last month, Meserole, a senior guard at Liberty Ranch High School, wound up on his back, tangled in a sea of arms and legs. Then someone stepped on him.
"He had a Nike footprint with the shoe markings on his arm for three days," said Liberty Ranch coach Josh Williams. "Guys are all over Meserole, but they can't stop him. He's going to score."
Meserole is the region's top scorer, averaging 25.7 points. He leads all Northern California players who are not affiliated with small Christian schools, where the competition isn't nearly as fierce as what Meserole endures.
Meserole is a throwback at the new school in Galt. He looks as if he was plucked out of a 1950s "Hoosiers" scene. The clean-cut look. The fundamental play of moving without the ball and not forcing shots.
Needing 39 points last week to become the town's all-time career scorer, the 6-foot-2 left-handed Meserole went for 40 against No. 12 Cosumnes Oaks, the top team in the SVC. He posted up smaller players. He drove past taller ones. He scored along the baseline. He was successful on runners, from three-point range, on the break and from the free-throw line in doing all he could to keep pace with Cosumnes Oaks, which won 69-59.
Meserole has 1,454 career points, surpassing Phillip Ricci, the former Galt forward who led that school to Arco Arena in the 1998 postseason and is now playing overseas. Unlike Ricci, Meserole plays below the rim as the Sac-Joaquin Section's most unsung talent leading the region's most unheralded team. But he's not just a scorer. Meserole averages 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals and leads the club in drawn charges.
"It's been a fun year," Meserole said. "Teams really guard me, sometimes to halfcourt. My stamina is really good. I love to work out; get to the gym at 5 in the morning. I think my stamina wears out teams. But I can get better. I still make too many mistakes."
Said Vista del Lago coach Matt von Tillow: "He's super active, and that makes it difficult on any defense. He's a talent, and you can't teach it. It's something you have."
Meserole downplays any celebrity status. Fans at Liberty Ranch and on the road work their way to the floor after games to congratulate him. Old-timers appreciate his game, with one saying after a recent contest, "That kid plays the game the right way."
Meserole insists all he and his teammates want to do is win. The Hawks have done a nice job of that, too. They won four games in their first varsity campaign two seasons ago, upped it to six victories last season and are 19-8 this season in one of the most remarkably rapid rises in recent area history.
Meserole and his teammates credit the surge to coach Williams, who in turn credits them. Williams took over the team on the eve of the season, with little coaching experience other than a year or two at the lower levels. A Galt High graduate who played with Ricci, Williams teaches health and physical education at both his alma mater and Liberty Ranch. He got the blessing from his wife, Susie, also a teacher in Galt, to coach. They have two children and a third on the way.
"I'm having a blast," Williams said. "I love this team. They work hard. They've earned it. We have a lot of Galt alums, Galtonians, coming by to see what we're all about."
Mike Meserole, Michael's dad, charts stats for Liberty Ranch. Mike, who was a Galt guard in the mid-1980s, is the fifth all-time leading scorer in Galt history.
He said his son blows his game away.
"I started Michael out in the game when he was little, but by the time he was a sophomore, he got beyond what I could teach," Mike said. "He has incredible work ethic. I haven't beaten him since he was in the eighth grade."
Meserole expects to play in college and has received looks from Division II and III schools. First, he wants to try his hand in the postseason. Liberty Ranch is a threat in the Division IV field, where teams will apply man-to-man and box-and-one schemes, traps and zones to attempt to slow Meserole.
Meserole said he plans to score and keep his cool. Teams bump him, push him, try to rattle him with words.
Sometimes even step on him.
"I know I have to keep moving," he said. "It does get frustrating with all that goes on out there, but I have to shake it off. I have to be a good role model and know how to play and how to act."