By Beth Moller
The University of Northwestern — St. Paul has a new member on the men’s basketball 1,000 point club. Senior Will Gisler reached the milestone during the December 10 game against North Central University. Gisler’s strong season also included being named to the All-Tournament Team during the Eagles’ Christmas-break tournament hosted by UW-Platteville and a UMAC Player of the Week award for his performances on Dec. 30 and 31. During that week he averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds per game. As Gisler has matured as a basketball player, he has become a strong presence on the Eagle’s team. Head Coach Tim Grosz said, “He’s gotten better in every phase. Defensively, he’s improved a lot since his freshman year. He’s more confident and has worked at his game and improving his shot, specifically his 3-point shot.” Gisler has also matured as a leader. Grosz added, “He’s become more of a vocal leader and a leader by example. The seniors are doing a great job investing in the younger guys, and they started a Bible study.” Not only are Gisler’s stats impressive, but this season is, according to Grosz, a miracle for Gisler.
Last year Gisler wrapped up his junior year with a mission trip to Spain in June with the rest of the men’s basketball team. After returning to the United States, he began an internship in Dallas, Texas, and shortly after started experiencing intense stomach pain. “I went into the ER three days in a row,” said Gisler. “The third day I had severe pain in my stomach so they put me on antibiotics.” After antibiotics did not relieve his pain, Gisler sought the advice of a second doctor who put him on probiotics assuming that the antibiotics had damaged his stomach. When the probiotics failed to offer him relief, he decided to fly home to the Rochester, Minnesota area to seek treatment at Mayo Clinic. “I checked in at Mayo and hadscans,” said Gisler. His doctors at Mayo decided
to operate on his stomach area. Once the doctors were operating, they changed the surgery part-way through. They found a hole in Gisler’s small intestine which had caused a large pocket of poisonous fluid to collect around the area of the hole. “If it had broken open, I would have died,” Gisler said. “The change in pressure during the plane ride [back to Minnesota] could have caused it to burst, too. The doctors put drains in and suctioned the fluid out instead of removing it.” The doctors told Gisler that the fluid pocket was about a day or so away from bursting. The issue was likely caused by Gisler ingesting something small and sharp which poked the hole in his small intestine. Gisler spent three weeks in the hospital from June 28 to the end of July. When he was finally released to go home, he still had four drains in his abdomen and had check-ups multiple times each week. “I am thankful for being close to the hospital,” Gisler said. Doctors warned Gisler that he would likely not be able to eat for months, but within a week after going home from the hospital, he was able to start eating again which was the first time he’d been able to eat in eight weeks. “I had the fastest recovery they had ever seen,” said Gisler. The recovery time for this type of health issue is usually around a year, and doctors were doubtful that he would play basketball for a year or more.
Despite that, Gisler has been able to play in every one of the Eagles’ games this season. Gisler ended up losing 50 pounds, spending three months on bedrest, and only working at his internship for four days. Despite the trials, Gisler appreciates lessons learned through the difficult summer. “I learned that God doesn’t care what my plans are; it’s up to Him,” Gisler explained. “After the diagnosis, everything that could have went well did. I’ve learned to be completely dependent on God and learned to trust Him. I also play [basketball] with gratitude. In a minute [the opportunity to play] could be gone.” Because the team is tightly-knit, Gisler’s career milestones are celebrated and appreciated by his coaches and teammates. “The whole team celebrates individual milestones because they happen within a team concept,” said Grosz. “Guys admit that it was made possible through others. It’s great to celebrate as a group.” In addition, they recognize that they could have been playing the 2016-2017 basketball season without him. “It’s a miracle that he is out there playing,” said Grosz. “And then to get to 1,000 points is cool. Not only has he played, but he’s played well.” “I’ve learned to put the needs of others before myself,” said Gisler. “It’s a good practice in celebrating others successes and the successes of the tea whether or not I am doing well. This has a direct relationship to how you treat friends and family. It teaches you how to put the needs of others before self and exhibit Christ-like love. Over a season there are ups and downs and it is a model of life, learning to treat each other right.
Everyone wants to succeed as a team more than individually. We try to have balanced scoring, and everyone covers for each other. We want to stick together and have joy playing.”With the 1,000 point milestone, Gisler and his brother Tom become the fourth set of brothers to each record 1,000 points or more as an Eagle. The other sets of brothers to achieve the feat are Mike and Jon Anderstrom, Chad and Cory Nuest, and Daniel and Stephen Hanson. Gisler’s family has been by his side through it all, not only during his health struggles this summer but also throughout his UNW basketball career. “My family is very supportive, and they come to just about every game,” Gisler explained. “They are always reaffirming that they are excited when I do well, but my parents are supportive of me whether or not I am playing well. They don’t put pressure on me.” Gisler, an engineering major, is unsure of his plans after college; however, he is open to whatever God has for him. He said, “I have a five year degree so I will still be in school next year. I am still feeling things out and am trying to be ready for whatever [the Lord has for me], whether that is missions or engineering or something else.” He is confident that the things he has learned as a member of the basketball team will help him in the future. “I’ve learned to be flexible and learned to adapt to others and how they work. I try to think about others and their perspective,” Gisler explained. “I’ve tried to do my best to think about those I lead and make decisions based on that.” As for now, Gisler is thankful to be healthy and on the court. “I am doing way better than expected and better than I deserve,” said Gisler. “I have no complaints; I am happy to be playing and have no symptoms anymore. Getting to play is a blessing.”