Junior Steven Gray is going to be a focal part of Gonzaga's offense in 2009-10. Is he ready to make the big jump?
Whenever I hear the name Brett Favre uttered on ESPN, I start realizing how crazy sports make me during the summer and how badly I need college football and basketball to start. With that being said, it also makes me go into deep thought about Gonzaga's very exciting 2009-10 season. For a summer that has been relatively dull in terms of serious recruiting news, it has been exciting as far as seeing our 2009 commits play international ball. We've also had some very exciting scheduling rumors come true in the past few days. We'll be kicking off our player and opponent previews once the season draws closer and the schedule comes out but for now, we are still at the mercy of random Scout and Rivals articles and hoping some of our interview requests get answered soon. For now, since I am trying to distract myself and the rest of you from Favre Fever, lets think happy thoughts about Mark Few and Gonzaga.
Wondering about Steven Gray v. Mangisto Arop. Before I offend people by claiming that Manny should start over Steven, that is not my intent. But it would be hard for Gonzaga fans to dispute the fact that Mangisto has been the story of the summer. EDZ touched on this a few days ago with his great piece about Manny and his potential but I'm very intrigued by what to expect now. It is no secret that Meech, Steven Gray, and Matt Bouldin will start from day one in the backcourt for your Gonzaga Bulldogs but I think Manny has proved this summer that he is going to be something special and very hard to keep off the court. Last season, I was very critical of Steven Gray and thought that he had more to offer than what he showed. He obviously struggled last year with what many of us thought was his specialty, the three point shot. Steven shot 46% from beyond the arc his freshman year and that fell to around 36% his sophomore year. This could obviously be a result of more playing time and the offense relying more on him but with a logjam in the backcourt this coming year, I'm not sure we can see that type of production and keep guys like Manny, Bol Kong, and Grant Gibbs off the court. Yes, I'm including Bol as I am the eternal optimist in the offseason. I think that Steven does have the skill set to become the best player on this team but the first few games will be very important in dictating the way the season goes. The best result for this team? Steven has the UConn game from last year on repeat and comes out on November 17th against Michigan State and dominates by slashing to the hoop and starting off on a high note. If it starts out like last year where Steven shoots 2/18 from beyond the arc in his first four games, I think we are going to see plenty of Mangisto Arop. They'll be growing pains with him, but he has proved all summer that he is the real deal and is physically ready to roll. There's no doubt though that this is a great, great problem to have.
continue reading after the jump for a few more random thoughts...
The schedule is as hard as ever...but shows more balance than in recent years. Just looking at the list of teams that are on the 2009 schedule, it is pretty clear that this year is loaded with some of best and more respected programs in the nation. Michigan State, Wake, Duke, Illinois, and Oklahoma all grace the Bulldogs schedule this season but looking at the dates and travel amounts, I feel like Mark Few and Jerry Krause actually did a great job. They will get an immediate road test right off the bat with the game at Michigan State but that will be a great mental test before a pretty lackluster Maui Invitational. The part of the schedule I like the most is December. If you'll remember last year, December was the downfall for Gonzaga with games at Indiana, at Washington State, at Arizona, an emotionally draining Connecticut game in Seattle followed immediately by a dangerous home game against Portland State, and then the biggest pitfall loss at Utah. While the list of teams isn't as high profile as this year, the travel schedule was pretty ridiculous. This years schedule takes a lot of the travel out of the picture as the Washington State game will be played at the MAC, followed up by a huge scheduling feat by Mark Few in getting Wake Forest at home, and then a pretty simple Battle in Seattle against Davidson. Two major road trips are nicely spread out with Duke on December 19th and then Illinois on January 2nd. In between those are a big kinda-home game at Spokane Arena against Oklahoma. The last road OOC road trip is Memphis on February 6th but by that time, the team should be running at full steam. The first half of December is so exciting because if the Zags can beat Washington State, they'll be on an emotional high heading into a big time match up with Wake Forest and that could result in a big time, early season win for this team. With a young team like this, all they need is an early season emotional high and they could become VERY dangerous.
Is Simi Fajemisin the final hope for 2010? Yesterday Scout.com reported the the big-bodied center from Lynnwood, Washington was visiting Gonzaga in September. Before this happened, I was sure that Gonzaga was going to sit on their two available 2010 scholarships and wait for the stacked 2011 class to do some damage. I still believe this is going to happen but with the Simi news, I'm not 100%. He doesn't have an offer yet and unless he really has improved over the summer, I can't imagine the Zags taking a shot on another project. Looking over the 2010 prospects that are interested, Fajemisin is the only one that makes sense as the rest are guards or wing players. Yannick Atanga seems to be the only other question mark but I'm betting that his interest was only passing and that he winds up somewhere local in California. We've detailed the enormity of the 2011 class as far as Gonzaga is concerned with guys like Gary Bell Jr. and Kyle Wiltjer. Like our loyal reader mikesequim always maintains, the other scholarship has got to be centered on a BIG. Fajemisin definitely fits the bill as he tips the scales at somewhere around 270-280 pounds but it all depends on whether or not Mark Few thinks he can project out as a big time player and contributor in the paint.
Hopefull this piece distracted you for a bit while ESPN continues to air a helicopter camera tracking the SUV carrying Brett Favre. Let us know what you think about the wealth of talent in the backcourt and what you expect to see from guys like Steven and Manny and how all the minutes work out. Love to also hear thoughts on the schedule...love it, hate it? Let us know!