Something Special on the Horizon

Gary Bell Jr. gave Gonzaga fans an incredible present yesterday, when he made a verbal commitment following an unofficial visit with his family.

Over the past year, Zach and I have preached the fact that the coaching staff has a plan for the 2011 recruiting class. Even with different guys popping up on the radar, we have made it clear that the priority focus will be a class consisting of Kyle Dranginis (commit), Gary Bell Jr. (commit), Kyle Wiltjer (Top 25 prospect), and Kevin Pangos (elite PG prospect from Canada). While this may seem like a guard heavy class, I would expect that both Kevin Pangos and Kyle Dranginis would be likely candidates to redshirt, thus balancing out the class and rotation. What this would do is limit the interest in a guy like Anrio Adams for the class of 2012, although I still thoroughly believe that Jordan Tebbutt would remain a priority no matter who is part of the 2011 class. So before we examine how Gary Bell Jr. will impact the rotation once he arrives on campus, we need to look at how the team will breakdown at that point.

Senior: Demetri Goodson, Marquise Carter, Bol Kong, Rob Sacre

Junior: Grant Gibbs, Kelly Olynyk, Mangisto Arop, GJ Vilarino (I don't include Elias here, as I feel there is very little chance he will be on the roster. Also, I just can't see anyway that both GJ and Grant are here in 2011, and wouldn't be stunned if neither is part of the program at that point)

Sophomore: Sam Dower and potentially Keegan Hyland (I think that Hyland is much less likely to be a part of the 2010 class after the commitment of Bell)

With the way the roster is setup, I think it would be very easy to predict that GBJ will play the type of role that we saw Jeremy Pargo handle as a freshman. For those that don't remember, Pargo averaged over 17 minutes per game as a freshman, and I would expect GBJ to get anywhere between 15-20 depending on how well he picks up the offense. At this point, it would seem fairly safe to assume that the starting PG will be either Meech Goodson or Marquise Carter, with Mangisto Arop at the SG, either Bol or Kelly at the SF, Sam Dower at the PF, and Rob Sacre at center. The coaching staff should have an excellent bench at their disposal as well, legitimately going nine deep with either Goodson or Carter, GBJ, either Olynyk or Kong, and hopefully Kyle Wiltjer. 

The reason that I have been so high on making GBJ a priority is because of the impact his commitment could have on the program. Not only does landing GBJ give Gonzaga a little presence in the Seattle Rotary Select landscape, which is arguably the top AAU club in the Northwest, but it also gives Gonzaga some leverage in recruiting the top talent in the Seattle area. While Gonzaga has had some success recruiting guys from Western Washington, the majority of that talent has been from the Vancouver, WA area, which isn't necessarily a college basketball hotbed. However, landing a Seattle Rotary Select prospect from the Seattle area could open up the opportunity for Gonzaga to compete for recruits from Rainier Beach, Franklin, and other schools.

Another great aspect of the GBJ commitment is that it will give Gonzaga the scoring point guard that many people have clamored for. While I wouldn't consider him an elite level shooter like Derek Raivio or Dan Dickau, Bell has the strength and toughness to get to the rim against any defender, while also having a consistent enough jumper to keep the defense honest. One thing that I noticed when I watched Bell play at the Gonzaga camp last summer is that he will certainly continue the trend of tough guards at the point guard position. Whether or not you are a fan of Jeremy Pargo and Demetri Goodson, there is no way to possibly question the toughness and attitude that both have brought to the PG position. This will certainly continue with Bell, who will see time at both PG and SG.

The last aspect of this commitment that is worth noting is the impact of Donny Daniels. In absolutely no way am I saying that the reason GBJ committed is because of Donny Daniels, as I think a ton of credit needs to be given to Coach Few for the role he took in his recruitment. Few was a presence at a handful of Kentridge games, and of course didn't miss a second when Kentridge participated in a tournament in Spokane earlier this year. However, this quote from Bell is an interview after committing immediately jumped out at me.

Washington and Cal were the runner-ups in Bell's recruitment. UCLA also went after Bell hard, but he said he "didn't get a real good vibe" from the Bruins, especially after the assistant coach who recruited him, Donny Daniels, left to take a similar position at Gonzaga.

So with Daniels already making an immediate impact during his time on the staff, it might be fair to think that Gonzaga recruiting could be entering a whole new level. While I always thought Gonzaga had a great chance at landing Bell and Wiltjer, I feel much more confident with Donny Daniels on the staff. With guys like Landen Lucas, Jordan Tebbutt, and Kevin Johnson on the radar for 2012, it seems the future is incredibly bright for Zag fans. I think this quote from Gary Bell Sr. to Jim Meehan sums everything up:

"He was getting tired of everybody calling and trying to figure out what he wanted to do. It just felt right and everything fell into place," Bell Sr. said. "We're all excited. It's definitely a good day for Gonzaga and a good day for Gary Bell Jr."

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