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Closing the Book on Gonzaga's 2009 Class

Remember him?  With all the talk about Gonzaga's foreign influx, Sam Dower is one of the six recruits that will be looking to make an immediate impact in the 2009-10 rotation.
Remember him? With all the talk about Gonzaga's foreign influx, Sam Dower is one of the six recruits that will be looking to make an immediate impact in the 2009-10 rotation.

I never thought I'd be writing a piece like this a few weeks after the 2009-10 school year started but we have finally answered all the questions that floated around the 2009 recruiting class.  With Bol Kong's arrival and enrollment at Gonzaga and Elias Harris having concluded his play the 2009 Senior Men's Eurobasket championships, we can finally get on with talking about the upcoming 2009-10 season which is sure to be one of the most exciting seasons to date.  With so much youth on this team (8 of 13 scholarship players have yet to play a division one game) the season is going to be full of growing pains but I expect this to be a Gonzaga team unlike any one we have every seen before.  There's nothing really undersized about this team anymore.  No one will be forced into a position that may not suit them best and the term "defense" might not be a punchline for a joke in Spokane.  The 2009 class brings an athletic dimension to Gonzaga as well.  Guys like Mangisto Arop, GJ Vilarino, and Elias Harris have been described as athletic freaks.  Vilarino touts an unbelievable vertical leap and Arop and Harris have unquestioned versatility and strength for their age.  Sam Dower and Kelly Olynyk bring length.  Both are tall, lean, and lanky giving Gonzaga an opportunity to either redshirt the pair or let them learn by playing.  Bol Kong's legacy on this blog has been well documented and his abilities as a scorer have Gonzaga fans in an uproar about his potential. 

The question now is what can we expect and how in the world will we get them all enough minutes?  Keep reading after the jump for some major themes regarding the 2009 class.  For now, here's a detailed look at the future:

No. Player Height Weight Position Hometown
1 Mangisto Arop 6'5'' 208 Wing Hamilton, ON
5 GJ Vilarino 6'0'' 177 PG McKinney, TX
13 Kelly Olynyk 6'11'' 215 Forward Kamloops, BC
20 Elias Harris 6'8'' 215 Forward Speyer, Germany
34 Bol Kong 6'6'' 220 Forward Vancouver, BC
35 Sam Dower 6'10'' 228 Forward Osseo, MN

When it is all said and done, I think that EDZ and I are in agreement when we say that this class has the potential to be the best to ever come to Gonzaga.  With that being said, there are already a great deal of expectations on these six newcomers especially when you consider the fact that their are only four legit returning contributors from a year ago.  Now that everyone is enrolled, there a few lingering questions and points of discussion that we'll look to investigate:

Updated redshirt thoughts:

EDZ wrote a fantastic piece about this very question in July when the Kong situation was still hanging in the balance.  He included a poll in that post asking you, the readers who you thought would redshirt from this very talented class.  Kelly Olynyk was the overwhelming winner of the redshirt contest with 70% of the vote.  Since then, we interviewed Greg Francis, who coached Kelly at NEDA and had some great things to say about Kelly.  Here's a short example:

I think that the good thing with Kelly is that he can play both the three or the four.  He's more of a four defensively but he is skilled enough to play the three since you guys are used to having big players in that position similar to Austin Daye.  The thing that is very special with him is his passing.  He can see the floor very well and rebounding which he added recently he can do very well.  He's not as good as Daye at this point but he has tons of talent and potential.

Kelly for me is the biggest question mark of any recruit that we have brought in.  He's got outstanding size and room to grow but the way Coach Francis described him, I wonder if he might be good enough to play and contribute right away.  The odds of guys like Elias Harris, Bol Kong, and Mangisto Arop redshirted is very slim in my estimation and that would only happen if they were hurt.  GJ Vilarino fills a need as a backup point guard next year so I don't think he will redshirt.  This leaves Sam Dower and Kelly.  Both have room to grow and need work in the weight room but the good thing is that both could eat up minutes this season if they had to because they possess an outstanding feel for the game.  There is still about two months until the first regular season game which means there is still time for the injury bug to bite but if Gonzaga can stay healthy, I'd love to see Kelly and Sam get a year to redshirt and bulk up because I see there best years at Gonzaga being a few years down the line.

Don't forget about our American boys

The entire summer has basically been revolving around Bol Kong's visa saga, Elias Harris' selection to the German senior national team, and team Canada's play in New Zealand.  With all this going on, GJ Vilarino and Sam Dower were just being normal college basketball recruits.  They showed up in Spokane shortly after their respective high school graduations and have been getting ready for the 2009-10 season for the past few months.  If you don't remember, Sam Dower was one of the most outstanding prep players to ever come out of the state of Minnesota.  He averaged about 24 points and 11 rebounds a game for Osseo High School in Minnesota.  He absolutely exploded last year and received plenty of postseason accolades including all-state honors.  Dower has as much upside as anyone on this team.  Freakishly athletic is how people have described GJ Vilarino.  Standing at 6', Vilarino has a vertical leap of over 40 inches and can run a forty yard dash around 4.4.  Last year we didn't think we'd see anyone as fast as Demtri Goodson again but Vilarino could give Meech all he could handle in a foot race.  GJ was once destined to be a Kentucky Wildcat until John Calipari took over in Lexington.  He's a big time point guard and with the way that Mark Few has developed point guards during his tenure at Gonzaga, I expect huge things from Vilarino right away in Spokane.

Will any of them breakthrough and start this season?

Like I said in the redshirt discussion, we still have quite a bit of time and practice to go through before the season begins meaning that we have keep an eye out for injuries.  At this point, I would say that the starting lineup will not consist of any true freshman to start the season.  The backcourt is pretty set with Demetri Goodson, Steven Gray, and Matt Bouldin running the show.  Rob Sacre will be the starting center for Gonzaga this season barring another injury.  The power forward position is the one major point of discussion here as many are expecting Elias Harris to be the freshman which provides the most production.  I still give the starting job at this point to redshirt freshman Andy Poling who had a very successful redshirt year and, according to Leon Rice, is up to around 245-250 pounds.  Andy was very impressive in the short stints we saw him last preseason and he has the skills to be a top big man in the WCC.  He was a highly touted recruit his first couple years of high school before developing a severe Gluten allergy which greatly affected his development.  His illness is now 100% under control and he is really starting to come into his own.  Having said that I believe that Sacre, Poling, and Harris will all have pretty equal minutes and Coach Few will try and keep his bigs as fresh as possible.  If Dower doesn't redshirt he will obviously get some time and the wild card is Will Foster who has a year left to show that he can be a consistent contributor on both sides of the court.  

When you think about this 2009 class, it is hard not to get excited.  When you constantly have debates about who to redshirt because they are all so skilled and wonder if any of them could start right away, it's pretty clear to see that the coach staff did an outstanding job filling the holes left by Pargo, Heytvelt, Downs, Brown, and Daye.  Each player will have very successful careers at Gonzaga and I feel like by the time they are done at Gonzaga, they will have made a number of very deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.  If the 2011 class comes together the way we think it can, I think that the sky is the limit in Spokane.