I feel like every recent post on the site has evolved into a few major themes. First, the point guard situation. I'm tired of addressing that so we'll move on for now. Second, the role and location of Elias Harris next year. Hold on to that thought. Lastly, the depth or (as some see it) lack there of, in the front court. Those last two themes are obviously intermingled because depending on where Elias goes, we lose or add depth in the front court. It is my (and I think Max's) viewpoint that Elias should spend a majority of his time at the small forward position not only for his future at the next level, but because he is not a good enough defender to work well in the post and he has shown to be a tremendous creator of his own shot. Assuming this happens, depth becomes an issue. The one man which has continually come up when debating depth is Minnesota prep star Sam Dower, who redshirted a season ago for Gonzaga. Dower was lauded coming out of Osseo High School but now the question is just what impact can we expect and is he in fact ready to start as soon as this season?
Sam Dower was one of the first recruits our blog (back in The Kennel Report days) covered. Mark Few and the staff were on him for a long, long time well before his home state team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, were on him. As the staff's recruiting list changed and evolved, only Sam remained constant while many others fell off the radar. We've learned that when Few pursues someone for such a long duration and is able to get him, you beter believe he is special.
continue reading after the jump...
Like I said in the intro, we were able to learn a lot about Sam through the recruiting process. We were able to get exclusive interviews with his AAU coach, Marquise Watts and he really shed some great light on Sam and how much he has improved over the years. Here is a quote from Marquise about Sam's effort in the state championship game:
At his position and with the things he does there is no one like him and he really rolls to the big occasion. It's always difficult for a big man to get compared to others at this level because you know that he has to have the ball to produce. (Eventual state champs) Hopkins would front him and have two guys on his hip right when he got the ball. He still found ways to score, however, and he got stronger all year. The fact that he got 16 boards against Hopkins means that he is chasing the ball, finding ways to get rebounds, and is getting a lot stronger.
My biggest issue with last year's Gonzaga team aside from free throw shooting was rebounding the basketball. Our post players didn't dedicate themselves to that at all a year ago and I think when you add someone like Sam that is willing to chase and scrap for loose balls, it is nothing but a good thing. I get the feeling that many people see Sam as a more finesse player and, while that may be true, I do think that a year in the weight room will just be huge for his development. Here is another quote from Marquise regarding where Sam needs to work most before arriving at GU:
Weight room. His skill set is there and the guys at Gonzaga will continue developing him and he just has to be dedicated and getting after it which I know he will. He's going to take a week off just to settle down but then he will be back to work again. Besides the weight room, there isn't much. He's almost 6'10'' now and almost 220 pounds. If he is 228 when the season starts it just means that he will be able to take much more contact and he will be longer and just ready for the college game in general.
When you take a quote like this and add in the fact that we have been hearing reports that Sam could be up to as much as 240-245 lbs, it really does have to make you drool at the thought of him on the court for four years. I can't tell you how happy I was to see Sam redshirt because I feel like his potential five years down the line far exceeded the necessity of playing him right away. The word "upside" has been linked to basically every report on him because he was a late bloomer but he could be a force within a few years as long as he stays healthy and hungry.
I have to imagine that Mark Few has been dreaming of pairing Sam and Robert Sacre up on the floor ever since he began recruiting Dower. The two compliment eachother extremely well. Where as Rob is more of a physical, back to the basket type big, Sam has the ability to work from the high post and free throw line and his strength has always been his scoring from the mid-range game. The reason he was redshirted was to increase his size to make him more of a banger but with Rob working in the low post, I imagine you'll see Sam add a great deal of versatility when Rob is out there. When Rob is taking a breather, I feel confident that he will play solid minutes as the primary big and rebounder. His length is excellent and that will make him a shot blocking threat and will give him a rebounding edge against a majority of the teams Gonzaga goes against.
There's no doubt in my mind that this group can be extremely special but health is always a concern. In terms of numbers, the front court is very thin, but in terms of skill and potential, it is very very talented. Everyone will go through their ups and downs and Sam is no different. He'll likely hit a wall midway through the season but I expect that extra year of conditioning and training to kick in and make him an excellent contributor.