While many Gonzaga fans would consider Gary Bell Jr. the 'recruit to see' in the 2012 class, there may be a split in the masses when discussing which recruit will mean the most to a successful season. Even though I may not personally believe in the previous statement, there is no doubt in my mind that the biggest questions mark on this team is who will be the primary distributor. Many believe the answer to that question is Kevin Pangos. The point guard recruit is the latest installment to the Canadian pipeline and he comes with a wealth of skill, hype, and international experience. The hard thing to gauge with all pure point guard recruits is how long it will take them to adapt to the speed of the game. At any other position a player can overcome certain shortcomings with outstanding physical attributes but at the point guard position, there is little that can be hidden. So the big question then is what to expect and when to expect it.
As I alluded to in the intro, Pangos is one of the most discussed recruits in recent memory. With years of experience on the international circuit, Kevin has made quite the name for himself. Most recently, he was selected to run point for the World Team in the Nike Hoops Summit. While his performance in that game wasn't exactly his finest, Pangos has provided Zag fans with plenty of tape to salivate over. Standing at 6'1'', the phrase that pops up in virtually every scouting report is 'pure point guard'. While that description is always a bit vague; the best way I can describe Pangos as a pass first point guard and an excellent distributor. This type of description has to be music to the ears of Bulldog fans who have suffered through poor point guard play over the past several years.
for more on Pangos, read on after the jump...There is no doubting Pangos' international resume. He's received multiple awards, including the top point guard at the FIBA U-17 tournament last summer and has been a mainstay on the Canadian international team. While Bulldog fans have learned to take all international experience with a grain of salt, it is hard to ignore how much more advanced Pangos is than most incoming freshman due to how many games he has played against top competition. One such experience was this past April in the previously mentioned Nike Hoops Summit. Against literally a who's who of top recruits including Austin Rivers, Anthony Davis, Mike Gilchrist, Pangos struggled. While he was only the floor for 16 minutes of play, it was the first time I saw Pangos look noticeably uncomfortable. He never seemed to get in a rhythm with the World Team. He finished the game 1-6 from the field and had a pair of turnovers.
That experience at the Hoops Summit is meant to temper expectations a bit. Over the past few years in college basketball, there have truly only been a handful of incoming freshman that really thrive as point guards. Most of them are rare combinations of skill, athleticism, and basketball IQ. Most point guards take quite a bit of time to develop. The worry with Pangos is on the athleticism side of things. While he is a superb distributor and creator for his team, Kevin has struggled to create for himself unless he is shooting from the perimeter. I'd imagine the staff is working on his ability to create in the paint. The area that needs the most work is his first step on the drive. He often gets shut down on the drive and settles for outside jumpers. He makes up for his athletic shortcomings with his handles. Pangos is an oustanding ball handlers, probably one of the best in the 2011 recruiting cycle.
I go back and forth on my expectations for Pangos this season. While many are truly expecting him to be the starting point guard for Gonzaga this season, I have my reservations. That, however, is not meant to imply that I don't think he will be a regular contributor. Kevin is an ideal change of pace player to really feed the post combination of Sacre, Harris, and Dower. In games against WCC competition, I think Pangos will shine. When the more athletic teams come calling, I would expect & hope Few to go with a backcourt rotation consisting more of Carter, Bell, and Landry over Stockton and Pangos. Kevin will eventually be able to handle the pressure of bringing hte ball up against athletic teams like Michigan State, Xavier, and Illinois but I don't think that time is now.
What will be interesting to watch is the likely battle between Pangos and Stockton this year. I think there is room for one in the backcourt rotation as I'm expecting Marquise Carter, Gary Bell, Guy Landy, and (hopefully) one of either Keita or Monninghoff to step up. My expectations for Carter, Bell, and Landry are quite high. Both Bell and Carter have the handles to play dual combo-point guards but I think there is a definite need for a guy like Pangos and Stockton as they will truly be on the court to make plays for others and hit the open jumper. I think with his larger frame and higher ceiling, Pangos will become that guy as the season progresses and really look forward to watching him this season.