Recruiting internationally used to be rather unheard of when it came to college basketball. With the dawning of the international superstar, i.e. Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, and possibly Ricky Rubio, some colleges have begun to seek out and try and unearth future stars before dreams of the NBA fill their heads. Gonzaga is obviously one such school that has developed a prowess for the international scene led by Assistant coach Tommy Lloyd and the 2009 recruiting class is one for the books. Four international players and two American players fill up the six scholarships and two of those international players, Mangisto Arop and Kelly Olynyk, recently concluded the FIBA U-19 Championship in New Zealand.
The Canadian team placed seventh overall out of 16 teams with a record of 4-5. Both Olynyk, who was actually the captain of the team, and Arop played important roles for Canada, each averaging over 25 minutes per game. They both also led their team in respective statistical categories; Arop in points per game and Olynyk in rebounds per game. Here is a combined look at how the two players finished up after nine games in New Zealand:
Mangisto Arop: 28 Minutes per game, 16.2 PPG, 45% from the field, 87% from the free throw line, 5.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 22 Turnovers.
Kelly Olynyk: 27 Minutes per game, 11.2 PPG, 37.3% from the field, 76% from the free throw line, 8.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 29 Turnovers.
Obviously their will be some stats that will immediately jump out at you. Just typing this up their were a few things that made me really enjoy what I read and some things which really do alarm me at this point. When judging these players at this point in their development, a few things must be considered including the system they play in. Let's take a look at a few key talking points regarding their performance for team Canada....First off, just to set the table and so I don't forget it, it's pretty necessary to look at the system a team is running, especially in international ball. No one is going to confuse the Canadian national team for a half court set offense. At times when I saw Canada play in this tournament they made Mark Few's offense look like I was watching the San Antonio Spurs. The point being is that the Canadians more or less went out there and just played basketball. You can tell this because the leading assist man for Canada was five-star 2010 recruit Cory Joseph and he only averaged 1.9 assists per game. So try not to be too stunned when you see supposed guard/wing Mangisto Arop only averaging 0.9 assists per game. He was fourth on the team! What this does tell us is that their is going to be a major learning curve for these guys. The offense that Mark Few runs, while it is full of run-n-gun style of play, is very methodical and complex in the half court and this will really slow the international players down at the get-go.
What is great about these two and what could really speed up the learning curve is that they are both absolutely loaded with upside. At this point in time, before stepping onto the court in college, Manny and Kelly both have frames which translate well into the next level and beyond. Manny is a solid 6'5'', 210 pound guard and Kelly stands at 6'11'' and has the versatility to play the game inside out. In all honesty they both have enough upside to make a lot of NBA GM's drool. The athleticism that Manny has and the versatility that Kelly has will make them both tough calls for Mark Few and the staff in a few months. Their is no doubt that the best is yet to come for each player but how long can you wait, especially with a team as young as the 09-10 team is. It is my opinion that Kelly should sit and Manny should play this year but their is a lot of time to make that call and see how these two progress. Here are a few notes about each player that should help you understand what is left to improve on and just how far away they are from being truly special.
Mangisto Arop: Their is no doubt that Manny is an elite scorer of the 2009 class. From what I saw in the tournament and what I have seen in tapes beforehand, he has a knack for getting to the rim and making plays. Leading Canada in scoring with 16 points should be an indication of that, especially when you consider that Canada was playing with Tristan Thompson, an elite 2009 recruit, and Cory Joseph, an elite 2010 recruit. Both are in Rivals top 10 for their respective year. Manny is also a very good defender thanks to his long and lean frame. He had seven steals in nine outings and can even cause some trouble blocking shots. He is also a savvy defender, totaling only 12 fouls in nine games. The immediate are for concern are his handles and distribution of the basketball. Manny struggled with turnovers late in this tournament and that could partially be fatigue. He had four turnovers in each of his last two games and only had eight assists in the face of 22 turnovers. Three-point shooting is also a concern for Manny but he only attempted 20 total three's in the tournament as a majority of his offense is created off of the dribble.
Kelly Olynyk: This was really my first time ever witnessing Kelly play live and uncut and after seeing a few games and highlights here and there, it still all feels a bit incomplete. Kelly played a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the FIBA Tournament. Their were games where he would play within himself like against USA and shoot 5/7 and net 14 points and then their were games where he went into takeover mode and shot 3/13 and actually hurt more than he helped. Kelly is oddly similar to Austin Daye not just because of his size but how he came into that size. Kelly, like Austin grew from a point guard into a power forward relatively late in their basketball development and Kelly is still showing the effects. His strengths are obvious. He has kind of a point guard mentality in the body of a forward and he can really see the court well and make passes to his teammates. He's developing into his body quite a bit as well and it is showing on the glass. He had a couple double digit rebound games and has a pretty good understanding of how to get to the ball. His weaknesses are actually similar to Manny's but in different capacity. Kelly really struggled with turnovers in the tournament, totaling 29 in nine games. He has some pretty soft hands in traffic and can be careless with the ball. He'll be asked to play the forward spot at Gonzaga and will have to adapt Austin's ability to get to the top of the key and bury a jumper without losing the ball. His three-point shot is also pretty raw...really raw. Kelly had 36 three point attempts over the course of the tournament and made six. He obviously loves to shoot the outside shot and that fits well into the Gonzaga system but it is going to need a lot of work to get it consistent. A redshirt year would be extremely beneficial to a guy like Kelly who is still trying to figure out how to adapt to his size.
It's pretty clear that both these players are reasons to get excited about the future of Gonzaga basketball so don't be afraid to make your voice heard in the comments below. We'd love to hear if you would redshirt either guy next year or any other passing thoughts you might have!