Gonzaga's wing conundrum and Bryce Jones

As I watched Gonzaga close out their 2010-11 season, I began writing down some of the bigger themes that I could think of over the past twelve or so months.  Last offseason was crazy in and of itself with the late recruiting additions and the transfers that coincided with them.  The season began with a pretty hefty thud as the Zags stumbled out of gates and things were rocky at best until the stretch run of the WCC.   As I look back now and evaluate the individual positions and how each player progressed this season, I happen to notice that a current transfer rumor falls in line with one of my biggest issues of the recently concluded season. 

Gonzaga's play at the small forward position was so inconsistent that Mike Hart was the chief backup to Steven Gray as the Zags made their run to a WCC crown.  Regardless of your feelings on Hart, there isn't a soul who thought he would overtake Mangisto Arop, Mathis Moenninghoff, and Mathis Keita in the rotation.  Not a soul.  The three previously mentioned scholarship players (and Mike Hart, for that matter) were virtually invisible on the offensive end.  In fact, Mangisto Arop had the highest % of Possessions used while on the court at 16.6%.  If you aren't familiar with this metric, % of possessions used basically measures how many possessions a player "ends" by making/missing a shot or turning the ball over.   In essence, it is a solid measure of what offensive impact (whether good or bad) a player has on the team.  At 16.6%, that puts Manny as a role player...barely.  Moenninghoff and Keita were both below Manny's mark but, to compare, Kelly Olynyk managed to use 22.2% of the possessions in which he was on the court.

The above paragraph is a long-winded way of saying that Gonzaga got little from their wings this past season.  How convenient it is that 6'5'' wing Bryce Jones happens to be on the market as a potential transfer and, oh yeah, he happens to be visiting on the weekend of April 22nd.  Read on for why Jones' aggressive style of play may be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Zags. 

We've pondered why Manny, Mathis, and Mathis didn't get more minutes down the stretch.  This has been discussed ad nauseam.  Everyone that has argued for one of these three to get more minutes has to admit that, while they all had flashes, there was so much left to be desired.  In truth, my mind still can't get wrapped around the season Mangisto Arop had.  While he is so effective on defense, as a rebounder; his ability to disappear on offense really killed this team at certain points of the season, specifically at USF.  Without belaboring the point, the Mathises both had similar seasons.  Moments where you thought they should be starting and moments when you wondered how they made their way across the pond.  While all three, particularly Mathis and Mathis, still have time to develop, their inability to get off the bench late in the season is troublesome.

As we turn our attention to the recent revelation that USC transfer Bryce Jones was not only considering Gonzaga but he has scheduled a visit, many fans have struggled with the "why".  The answer to this question should be as clear as day.

At this moment, Gonzaga does not have an effective small forward.  While Bryce would have to sit out a season, the staff can not sit around while there is an extremely talented prospect available.  In 18 games for the Trojans, Jones averaged eight points a game and had seven games in double figures, as a freshman.  Unlike Gonzaga's trio of wings, Jones erred on the aggressive side.  He "used" 24.5% of the possessions in which he was on the floor.  He averaged 21 minutes a game but when conference play began, he experienced a Mangisto Arop-like decline in minutes.  This decline, along with some off-court issues caused Jones to pursue a transfer.

The scouting report on Jones is this:  Coming out of high school he was the 14th best small forward in the country by Scout.com.  Greg Hicks, the one man who covers West Coast recruiting exclusively, ranked him the top SF on the West Cost.  Jones is described as a prototypical wing with great length who's biggest strength is his ability to slash to the hoop but can also play with his back to the basket.  He has the ability to step back and hit the deep jumper but this is definitely an area where he has room to improve.  Defensively, when I watched the Trojans play, he seemed to do a nice job defending the ball but picked up a number of overzealous fouls and got a bit sloppy in transition.

Before this devolves into a thread discussing his off-court issues, I think we can all rest assured that the staff will do their due diligence with Jones.  His two "red flags" of punching a teammate and getting into a verbal altercation with an RA are both things that I am sure Coach Few and the staff will cover when he visits.  Many times, players just need a change of scenery, particularly when their first school is one that is close to home.  This is not meant to be an excuse for his off-court troubles but I'd rather judge his "fit" on the court and let the staff worry about Bryce's character.

We'll worry about the scholarship situation once Bryce chooses his destination.  It is worth mentioning that UNLV's odds of landing Jones took a big hit when Lon Kruger decided to accept the Oklahoma job.  Jones will likely decide between Gonzaga and San Diego State unless something unusual happens.

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