Ladies and gentlemen, forty days now separate us from the first glimpse at the 2009-10 Gonzaga Bulldogs and during that time we will be breaking down everything you can expect to see when the Zags lace em' up. This year's official Gonzaga roster consists of 16 student-athletes. 13 of those individuals are on a full scholarship given to them based on their athletic abilities on the basketball court. The three remaining players on the Gonzaga roster are walk-ons. Walk-ons are a special brand of player because they face the same athletic demands as the scholarship athlete without the compensation. They are typically the most energetic guys on the team and become cheerleaders on the bench. They are the first one's up during a timeout to give high-fives and they are hopefully the last one's on the court, wrapping up a Gonzaga blowout victory over a lowly WCC or preseason foe. There is obviously not a lot of glitz and glamor associated with the role of walk on but for Gonzaga's Chris Pontarolo-Maag, Mike Hart, and David Stockton, the idea of playing basketball at Gonzaga University is well worth the effort.
Where else could I begin than with the son of the most heralded Gonzaga basketball player in history? John Stockton's legacy in the basketball world is something that will probably never be approached by another Gonzaga basketball player...ever. For the sake of his son David, however, we will just get on with discussing what he brings to the table and how he wound up at Gonzaga. David is a Spokane native and went to high school at Gonzaga Prep. Despite being undersized, he flourished as a Bullpup and averaged doubles figures in scoring while leading his team to a 26-4 record. David's athletic ability extended beyond the basketball court as he was the quarterback for the 8-2 Gonzaga Prep football team. Listed at 5'10'', 150 pounds, David has a lot of strength to add before serious contributions can be expected but with his pedigree, I wouldn't be stunned if David wound up eating up some minutes before he graduates from Gonzaga University. From all indications he plays a similar style of poin guard to the one his father did for so many years. A pass-first guard, Stockton is a very intelligent player that obviously has extensive knowledge of the game. He'll more than likely redshirt this season and enjoy five years as a part of Gonzaga basketball.
continue reading after the jump for more about the walk-ons
One of the surprises early on last season was an extra body on the Gonzaga bench wearing a team polo. After lengthy speculation, it was discovered that Gonzaga had added another walk-on to the roster in former Jesuit High School standout and current redshirt freshman Mike Hart. One thing that Hart possesses that you don't see too often out of walk-ons is exceptional size. Having redshirted last season, he has grown up and now checks in at around 6'5'', 201 pounds. For those of you who are keeping track, that is a similar body type to guys like Steven Gray and Grant Gibbs. Needless to say, Hart provides a big need as a scrappy practice player who can also match up physically with the guards of Gonzaga. Like I mentioned, Mike came to Gonzaga via Jesuit High School which happens to be the school that Kyle Wiltjer attends. Wiltjer is a 2011 recruit who is being heavily courted by Gonzaga. Hart was an outstanding performer in one of Oregon's most difficult leagues and he was so impressive in his senior season that he received Second Team Metro League honors. Gonzaga's Andy Poling often matched up with Hart as Poling's Westview High School was in the same league as Jesuit. It remains to be seen if Hart will every contribute for the Zags but he adds great value in the practice gym.
The last walk-on for the Gonzaga Bulldogs this season is redshirt senior Chris Pontarolo-Maag, or how he is know by most, P-Maag. Maag is a prime example that hard work does indeed pay off as he had to really pay his dues to make the roster. He tried out for a walk-on spot his first two years at Gonzaga only to be turned away both times. He kept playing intramural basketball to keep his game sharp and was finally kept on the team during his junior season. He redshirted that year and did not suit up but last season, as a redshirt junior he suited up at the home games and got some minutes during mop-up time. Typically too gun-shy to even hold the ball for more than 3 seconds, Maag finally got his first point at the end of a late season game against Pepperdine. He would add his first field goal during the last game of the season against USC Upstate. I have little doubt in my mind that Maag's listing on Gonzaga's website as 5'11'', 175 pounds is heavily exaggerated. He'll likely be this year's fan favorite as it will be his last season at Gonzaga.
Hopefully they'll be plenty of time this season to see Maag and Hart on the court but with such a young Gonzaga team and difficult schedule, that remains to be seen. There's no doubting that these three will give it all they got in practice and will definitely have their place in all the success that Gonzaga has this season and moving forward.