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Gonzaga's recruiting is starting to get "big"

Junior college forward Carlos Emory appears to be on the Zags radar for 2011.
Junior college forward Carlos Emory appears to be on the Zags radar for 2011.

As July comes to a close, countless recruits, scouts, coaches, and writers can breathe a huge sigh of relief and relax for a moment.  For the past month (and for many well over that) high school prospects around the country have been traveling all over the United States hoping to attract the attention of college coaches.  With the AAU schedule nearly complete and the new school year just around the corner, we have come to a very major point in Gonzaga's recruiting. 

We haven't beat around the bush here about how special the 2011 class could be.  The best part about the class is that it seems to be looking more promising as the weeks progress.  It was about a year ago we posted this article about our hopes for the 2011 class.  I would say that any Gonzaga fan has to feel pretty good about where we are in terms of that plan.  Gary Bell has already verbally committed to Mark Few and the Zags and Kyle Wiltjer is still well in sight.  Not only that, but Gonzaga has also secured the commitment of Kyle Dranginis, a promising 6'5'' guard with great range.  Recently, however, two new names have popped up and one familiar name continues to gain steam as we get closer and closer to the time of official visits.  Here is a look at how the 2011 recruiting class is shaping up.

The Prize:  Kyle Wiltjer.  You could make the argument that no player this summer has blown up more than Kyle Wiltjer.  The 6'9'' power forward has been drawing rave reviews at every tournament this summer and has really debunked the common knock that he is way more comfortable on the perimeter.  Wiltjer has been compared to Keith Van Horn, Kevin McHale, and other versatile bigs from years past.  His ability to adapt to any type of defense and match up makes him easily one of the top high school players in the world right now.  His versatility makes him a very nice  fit into Gonzaga's up and down tempo because he can play so well in transition.  He can trail a play and knock down the outside three or he can catch the ball in transition and take it to the rim.  He's a complete offensive player.  Wiltjer has been quoted as saying he will decide his final schools after the AAU slate and take all five official visits.  I'd be stunned if Gonzaga didn't make the initial cut but look out for programs like Cal, Kansas, the Oregons, and Kentucky who are all hot after Wiltjer as well. 

continue reading for more on Gonzaga's current target list...

The next Canadian import?  I can't remember how long I have been hearing about the 2011 class for but for as long as I have, I've heard the following three names:  Gary Bell, Kyle Wiltjer, and Kevin Pangos.  Kevin Pangos is such an interesting prospect not because of his skill set or his style, but because it has been so difficult to track his recruitment and understand Gonzaga's interest in him.  From what we understand now, Pangos is the only perimeter target for the Zags at this point (aside from the already committed Dranginis and Bell).  Pangos made his AAU debut this summer and has shown quite well and will also be taking part in the upcoming Nike Global Challenge.  Seeing quotes like can understand why the staff appears to love Pangos:

Kevin Pangos, 6-1, Point Guard - For years scouts have scrounged across Canada in hopes of discovering the next Steve Nash, and the search should end upon seeing Pangos play. The Ontario native has been highly regarded as the future face of Canada Basketball and his play at the U-17 tournament showed why the accolades are so grand.

This isn't some random quote from an over-enthusiastic journalist.  Pangos has been getting huge comparisons for many years.  He led Canada's U-17 squad in a recent FIBA event and was the best point  guard in the tournament.  One thing I've noticed about Pangos is that he has incredible maturity, whether it is off the court in interviews or on the court with the ball in his hands.  Pangos is being courted by Michigan, UNLV, and Cincinnati most notably to go along with the Zags.

The versatile wing/forward:  Currently in our view, that is Antwan Space and Carlos Emory.  If both of those names are new to you, don't worry...we are still getting used to them as well.  We have posted here and there about Space and it appears that Gonzaga's interest in him has skyrocketed since the recent slew of transfers.  Space is a 6'6'' power forward with range that is a sure-fire top 100 talent in the 2011 class.  Carlos Emory is a very new face but according to this Rivals report....Gonzaga is in the picture:

"Right now I would have to say Gonzaga, Santa Clara, Baylor, Kansas State, they are showing the most interest," Emory said.

Emory averaged around 11 points and 7 boards last season for Howard Junior College which wound up defeating Marquise Carter's Three Rivers CC team in the juco national title game.  He'll be a sophomore next season and will likely be the featured player for a very dangerous program. 

What I absolutely love about both Space and Emory is that the words "combo" and "versatile" are riddled in every write up I see about them.  Space sounds like he could play some face-up power forward but he also has the ball handling and creativity to play the off guard.  At 6'6'', Emory is the same type of player but he seems to come with a less consistent jumper but probably more athleticism.  I really like both these prospects alot and it seems like the staff is recognizing the impending hole at forward once next season comes to an end.

The everlasting question:  Scholarships.  Here is my current thought process: Mark Few is shooting for a five-man class.  We can talk about guys being back up plans all we want but I don't think I could understand an argument that a 6'6'' combo guard/forward is a back up option to Wiltjer.  Space and Emory are both players that could play in great tandem with Wiltjer but also have the ability to handle filling minutes at the four even though I would imagine they would end up seeing more time out on the perimeter. 

I'm very curious now as to what this means for someone like Mathis Monninghoff's eligibility at Gonzaga.  The Zags currently have four open scholly's for the 2011 class without Monninghoff.  Assuming Elias is a pro after next season, Mark Few will have room for the five man class.  This could be completely off and Monninghoff could arrive tomorrow but I would have thought we would have heard something by now.  As always, recruiting is such an amazingly fluid topic but if you can't get excited about this...something's wrong!