As I sat in the Spokane Arena during the Gonzaga loss to Memphis in February, I kept trying to figure out how Gonzaga could have been so dominated by an opponent. However, the more I began to think about that particular loss, the more I realized just how much the landscape of college basketball was changing. It's pretty clear that way to win in college basketball is by recruiting length and athleticism. The great team that Florida had was built on the great length of Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, and Al Horford. Memphis has had guys like Tyreke Evans, Robert Dozier, and Derrick Rose, who weren't necessarily blessed with great height, but instead great length for their position. During the Memphis game, it was astonishing to see the Tigers zone defense take up nearly every open spot on the court. Memphis used its great length and athleticism to challenge nearly every shot on the court, and to make nearly every pass that Gonzaga made difficult. One thing that immediately jumps out at me about the recruiting class that Mark Few is bringing in is the clear emphasis on improving the overall length and athleticism of the Gonzaga roster. In no player is this more clearly seen then Sam Dower from Osseo, Minnesota.
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When Gonzaga began recruiting Sam Dower, it seemed rather curious that the Zags were going after a guy who came off the bench for his high school team, and wasn't even one of the top options. However, as Dower developed and matured while playing for Net Gain Sports over the summer, it became clear that the coaching staff had discovered an absolute star. As Dower dominated numerous AAU tournaments throughout the summer, many of the top programs attempted to get involved in his recruitment. Prior to his commitment, Sam narrowed it down to Gonzaga, Cal, Minnesota, Marquette, and George Mason, but it took only one visit for Sam to make his decision. Sam made his way out to Spokane on September 6th for his official visit, and he was committed to Gonzaga by the night of the 7th.
"When he was there this weekend Gonzaga pulled out the red carpet treatment for him. Sam just felt at home. It seemed to him like everybody from the parents to the coaches and even the students or fans from the student section where really aware of Sam coming this weekend. And they all really made the visit a first class experience for him."
The good news for Gonzaga fans is that Sam did not rest on the laurels of his terrific summer, but instead developed himself into one of the elite post prospects in the entire country. Having emerged as the leader for an Osseo team that lost its top 5 scorers, Sam averaged an incredible 23.9 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Orioles. Even more importantly, Sam took a much less experienced Osseo team all the way to the Minnesota state championship game, where they lost to one of the best teams in the entire country (Hopkins). With a huge target on his back, Sam was constantly double and triple teamed throughout the season. However, when his offense suffered from a lack of touches, Sam was able to step up his game on the defensive end.
"It was getting frustrating," Dower said. "They did an exceptional job pushing me outside."
It was a different story on defense. The Gonzaga recruit had 10 rebounds (nine defensive) and five blocked shots.
"Sam doesn't let his offensive performance affect his defense," Osseo coach Tim Theisen said. "He is the consummate team player."
What has me so excited about Sam is the almost unlimited potential that he has. With the dramatic improvements he made between his junior and senior year of high school, it's clear that Sam has the work ethic and mentality to be great. Like many kids his size, Sam needs to put on 15-20 pounds before he can dominate at this level. However, with his feathery left handed jumper, and terrific ability to shoot in transition, Sam might be able to make a strong impact on the offensive end. Because of his lack of weight and strength, Sam might get bullied around by some of the stronger and more physical big guys that he will face his freshman year. While he is certainly skilled, I'm sure that Sam will find it much more difficult to establish position in the post, as well as keep guys off the offensive glass. It should be interesting to see if the natural scoring ability that I mentioned can make up for the lack of strength that he has at this point in his career. However, the thought of Dower, Poling, Sacre, and Harris as the frontcourt of the future makes me drool.
Added strength should help raise the starting point on his shot. Dower is a good rebounder especially on the offensive end as he uses his long wing span fore tip INS and to come over from the weak side to block shots. Defensively dower did a great job at helping in on ball screening situations. This young man has great upside.