Over the past year, both Zach and I have emphasized our belief that the two main priorities for the 2011 class are Gary Bell Jr and Kyle Wiltjer. With the coaching staff having already secured verbal commitments from Kyle Dranginis and GBJ, it would seem likely that the "ideal" 2011 class would feature the additions of Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos. However, after reading some evaluations over the first month of the AAU season and thinking more about the roster/rotation for the future, I'm not totally sure that those two would make the most sense for the future of the program. I want to preface my previous statement with the fact that I think both Kyle and Kevin can be excellent options for any program in the country, but I just don't think that both necessarily make sense in the landscape of the 2011 recruiting class and beyond.
Kyle Wiltjer: If it comes down to bringing in Witljer or Pangos, my first choice is clearly to add Wiltjer to the 2011 class. Wiltjer fits into the scoring mold of previous Zags like Adam Morrison and Austin Daye. Wiltjer is an impressive 6'9 and has the ability to score both on the block and out on the perimeter. However, my main fear with Wiltjer is his lack of athleticism, which may result in the overall potential he has as prospect. The other issue that has been a previous problem for Wiltjer is his lack of toughness and willingness to battle in the paint. Even though Wiltjer is more comfortable on the perimeter, it would be nice for him to develop that edge that Kelly Olynyk possesses in the post. With that being said, I saw these two reports regarding Wiltjer from last weekend, and both mentioned the grittiness he displayed:
Kyle Wiltjer, PF/C, Oakland Soldiers – A skilled 6-foot-9 post prospect, Wiltjer has an impressive all around skill set. He can score over either shoulder and has a face up game that allows him to shoot jumpers to 22-feet or even attack off a dribble or two. Wiltjer was much better on Sunday for the Soldiers than the previous day, as he was more assertive and aggressive.
Want to give Kyle Wiltjer some credit for increasing his productivity on the interior. The 6-foot-9 four man has made his reputation as a sweet shooting and skilled big, but he's also impressive around the rim where he hits defenders with well a developed series of post moves. He's continued to add strength and the play on the interior has only opened up his perimeter game.
If Wiltjer continues to add the strength and inside game to go along with his excellent shooting stroke from the perimeter, it's clear that he will remain the highest priority to join GBJ and Kyle Dranginis in the 2011 class. I also like the premise of having a post rotation featuring Sam Dower, Kyle Wiltjer, Rob Sacre, and Kely Olynyk for the 2011/2012 season.So if we continue on with the premise that the 2011 class will feature four incoming recruits, where should the coaching staff look to finish off the class. I believe that GBJ is best suited for the role of a scoring point guard when he is at Gonzaga, and with Dranginis also having the ability to play some point guard, I don't fully understand the need/logic of adding Kevin Pangos to the class. While Pangos would provide a true point guard option, I'd rather see a true post prospect or an elite scorer on the wing be the final piece of the class. My first option to go along with a class of GBJ, Dranginis, and Wiltjer would be Norman Powell.
Norman Powell: Powell is a 6'2 SG from San Diego and he has emerged as arguably the top SG prospect on the West Coast. Powell is an elite athlete who has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but is arguably at his most comfortable on the fast break and attacking the rim. Here is great evaluation of Powell after the first month of the AAU season:
April, 2010: Powell is climbing up the recruiting charts faster than any other prospect out west. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but he's the best athlete out west and affects the game at both ends due to his hustle and savvy. He plays at a relentless pace and attacks the rim with a vengeance. A typical sequence would have him grabbing the rebound, leading the fast break, and either attacking the rim or delivering a nice assist. His handle is a bit raw as he relies on his athleticism to get through defenders. At the next level, defenders will be able to get into him so he'll need to tighten up his handle, particularly his left hand. His jump shot, on the other hand, has improved. He gets great lift on his shot, but overall his shot tends to more flat as he extends out to the stripe. Overall, he is an outstanding prospect that should end up at the high-major level.
One of my firm beliefs when is comes to recruiting, especially with Gonzaga, is to try and find guys who possess elite athleticism. If Gonzaga is going to take the next step as a program, the overall athleticism on the roster needs to continue and improve. Adding guys like Mangisto Arop, Sam Dower, Mathis Keita, Elias Harris, and GBJ is an excellent step in the right direction. I can't stop thinking about the potential of having GBJ, Powell, and Mangisto Arop on the floor, as I really don't see how any opposing back court will be able to get open looks against that group of defenders. At this point, Powell reports offers from USD, San Diego St., UCLA, and Arizona. While UCLA might seem like the logical choice because of their location, I don't think that Powell is a good fit for the system that UCLA plays. Perhaps Powell will fall into the category of Keala King, and we will never hear of interest between him and Gonzaga again. However, I sincerely hope that the interest begins to increase, and that he joins Kyle Wiljter in rounding out the 2011 class.
If the staff elects to not pursue Norman Powell, I would hope that their attention would turn to Kevin Johnson. Johnson is one of the true center prospects on the West Coast, and Donny Daniels has been to evaluate him in person this Spring. While Johnson did just announce a top 4 of Kentucky, USC, Illinois, and Boston College, it's still far too early in the recruiting season to think that any school is out of the running. While Johnson was ineligible to play last season at Taft high school, he has shown an improved physique so far on the AAU circuit. Evan Daniels at Scout.com was able to watch Johnson and his California Supreme teammates in Los Angeles this past weekend, and he has a very positive evaluation.
Kevin Johnson, C, California Supreme – In a high level affair against rival Oakland Soldiers, Johnson played like a man in the paint. Clearly in better shape than last year, Johnson moves end-to-end much better and maneuvers well in the paint. At 6-foot-9, 240-pounds, he takes upspace in the lane and in this one controlled the offensive glass, securing multiple put backs. He also showed a face up jumper to 12-feet. Johnson, a product of Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft, is primed for a big senior season.
The reason that I am so high on Johnson is because he would fit in perfectly with the trip of Wiltjer, Dower, and Olynyk. While all three of those guys can play in the paint, they are all most comfortable facing up their defender and scoring over the top. With Johnson and Sacre in the mix together, I keep having visions of the tremendous offensive display that the duo of Ronny Turiaf and JP Batista. Having a true big body prospect like Johnson would open up the scoring options for Dower, Olynyk, and Wiltjer, while also giving Johnson the ability to control the paint with his size and strength.
If both Johnson and Powell aren't on the list to complete the class, I am not entirely sure what direction I would go in. In my opinion, I would rather pursue a JC big guy or just wait until the 2012 class. With guard options like Anrio Adams, Duane Notice, and others available in 2012, I am not inclined to continue and pursue Kevin Pangos. I don't think there is a need for a true point guard option when you have GBJ, Dranginis, and a potential 2012 guard in the rotation.