Has this offseason been more eventful than all of the 2009-10 season? I'm starting to think so. The latest news is that French guard Mathis Keita has indeed signed with Gonzaga and will join the team for the 2010-11 season. The 6'4'' guard is the third member of Mark Few's 2010 recruiting class and at this point, I'm still not sure he's done bringing guys in.
While there is nothing yet from Gonzaga's athletic department or from the Spokesman, Cristophe over at European Prospects is an extremely reliable source and he confirmed that Mathis did indeed sign a letter of intent. I've said for the past few weeks that I am trying my best to not be surprised by how this spring has gone but this commitment really stuns me. Mathis is an extremely interesting prospect and I think as a guard, he is more of a developmental prospect. What we know about him comes from reading other sites and watching limited youtube videos but he seems to be one of those players that is full of my favorite word...upside.
With this new commitment, I obviously have my new theories about the future of Gonzaga recruiting that I'm pretty confident won't come true but, hey, check it out after the jump!
Let's start with what we know about Mathis. The first thing that jumps out about him is that he is a big guard at around 6'4'' and has a very long and wiry frame. The most recent discussion of his game that I can find comes from Cristophe at European Prospects (May 10th):
Mathis Keita is still in the process of finding his real position. Will he be a full-time PG or remain a combo-guard without a big shooting threat from outside? Right now, he is an excellent scorer on this level, mostly through drives or on the break, but he lacks the necessary regularity from outside and the game tempo control to be a full-time PG on the next level. With his above average athletic abilities for European standards but a rather thin and long frame, he excels in beating his opponent with his first step but struggles sometimes to make the right decision between going fully to the hole or taking the mid-range option with either the pass or the stop to see what the defense gives him.
The first two sentences of the quoted write up is obviously the big concern with Mathis. He seems to have solid potential as a point guard but it all depends on how long Mark Few is willing to wait for him to fully develop. From all reports, his passing and overall decision making has greatly increased over the past few years. He runs into a few mental lapses from time to time but there definitely a few reasons why I love this signing. First of all, Mathis is described as a max effort type player and a guy that can fill up the stat sheet. In the short term, his greatest assets will be his defense and rebounding contributions. At a very long 6'4'', he seems to fit the Mark Few "big guard' prototype but his athleticism will remind you of someone like a Larry Gurgainious and I hope that Mathis can give the defensive intensity that LG did. Rebounding is an area where Gonzaga struggled mightily a year ago and if Mathis plays this season, he sounds like he can be a Manny Arop type player in that he goes after every rebound. The scoring, the leadership, and that type of stuff will come with type but in the short term, I really like this signing.
There are obviously some worries with Mathis. His outside shooting is definitely a work in progress but he looks like he can knock down the open jumper. The true test will be where he at the staff decide to play him at. Like the quoted description says, he really has to focus on either improving his shot to work on the wing or hone his point guard skills and become an elite decision maker. Watching his videos, I really do see a solid future for him at the point guard spot because he appears to be a solid passer in transition. The key for him will be whether or not he can slow himself down to play in half court sets. We saw last year that Meech Goodson struggled slowing himself down to the pace of the game and that is just something you can have if you want to be an elite team.
I'm sure this commitment will leave a lot of you scratching your heads. It is hard to believe that we now have five guards in the 2010 and 2011 classes and no big men. My theory on this whole thing is that Mark Few is probably done recruiting guards in the 2010 and 2011 classes. The hype around Kevin Pangos is huge but I can't imagine Gonzaga signing another guard in 2010 if we had a shot at getting him in 2011. It just doesn't add up when you look at our big man needs in 2011. Kyle Wiltjer is priority #1 and then if Elias Harris leaves after next year, I would love to see the staff add a big, wide post player and I'd love it even more if he was a junior college transfer just to get a bit more experience in there. I've been very confident in our front court for next season and I can't imagine a bigger vote of confidence than the one Mark Few is giving by recruiting five guards in 2010 and 2011. Sam Dower, Kelly Olynyk and co. must be doing something right in practice. I truly do believe Dower is going to have an exceptional career at GU.
We're going to try and get an interview for you all to find out a little more about Mathis from those who have watched him on multiple occasions. If anything, I'm beyond intrigued by this signing.