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Making Sense Of Meech's Move

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When we first received confirmation Demetri Goodson was considering leaving Gonzaga, it was with a grain of aplomb that we whispered to fellow cohorts that we probably wouldn’t hear something from the notoriously tight-lipped mother ship for a few days, and that for God's sake we shouldn't assume anything.

And then Meech broke up with us, and that aplomb shattered like the Tiny Gallon backboard.

Just like that, only 56 hours after the officially unofficial speculation train started running away, he was gone. A press release was sent out deep from the bowels of Zag HQ, and out stepped the Zags' seventh highest rated recruit ever, and the last remaining member of the 2008 class.

More notoriously, out stepped the seventh Gonzaga player in the last 17 months. Follow us over the jump as we start trying to make sense of it all.

Before you start sending postcards to College Station just yet, our friends at note that while the Aggies are on Goodson’s radar, Goodson is not on Aggie coach Mike Sherman’s, or at least not yet, anyway. They also confirm that former A&M and current Texas State coach Dennis Franchione -- if only he still wrote a bylaw-violating secret newsletter that could tip us off -- has a solid chance of landing Goodson.

While other schools within reasonable distance of Spring, Texas could be in play as well, the same sources close to Meech that helped us break the story assure us that Texas A&M is without question his top choice.

Goodson’s blueprint for football success isn’t entirely implausible. Most recently, former Division I player and Ken Bone recruit Julius Thomas was drafted last weekend by the Denver Broncos. The Portland State Viking was a four-year Big Sky basketball player who spent his fifth year of college on the football field.

But the amount of excitement over Goodson's potential gridiron career, and the farewells flooding the fanscape -- mostly in the form of plaudits commemorating Goodson’s seminal moment, The Runner, Revisited in the 2009 NCAA Tournament -- have been overridden by fans' need to put a big giant stethoscope over the heart of the program. Message board posts and fan dialogue are roiling at a pace that even the heady Zagosphere isn’t accustomed to.

The struggle to set the context and define the larger ramifications of the latest chapter of the Great Exodus of 2010-2011 is a months-long task. While we can only offer educated guesswork about the future (e.g. this can only be good news for the personal fortunes of Kevin Pangos), we can definitively comment on the past.

The points of initial debate over Meech's departure go something like this: Some view the 2008 class and recent transfer buildup as evidence that the program has hit a low point, while others say it’s only reflective of a broader trend across college basketball.

Both of these views have merits.

On one hand, no entire recruiting class in the Modern Zag Era has ever collectively laid an egg like 2008's. While there have been a few classes (2000, 2005) to feature a triumvirate of non-retention, at least one of those classes' participants stayed all four years. More importantly, of the six guys who did leave those classes, only one of them, Jimmy Tricco, left to go play athletics at a Division I school. Of the past seven transfers Gonzaga has had, Meech, Hyland, Vilarino, Gibbs and surely Arop will suit up for D-I programs in the future. In other words, never before have we lost a group of guys this touted and talented this quickly.

(Side trivia note about that 2000 class: when they left our program, Jay Sherrell and Germayne Forbes both voyaged to some place called State University of West Georgia and suited up for the Wolves. Since his tenure with that little D-II gem, Forbes has also spent time being cooler than you).

On the other hand, D-I players leaving programs in the 21st century is a lot like divorce - it's de rigeur. It's no secret that the average rate of NCAA basketball transfers -- not to mention the tendency of Freshmen and Sophomores declaring for the NBA -- has risen in recent years. Just yesterday another Jesuit institution lost its second player of the off-season. Georgetown, a program with both a 21st century prowess and a Jesuit-infused meme of "doing things the right way" similar to Gonzaga, lost forward Jerrelle Benimon to the transfer wire. Hoya guard Vee Stanford left last month. Both are looking to pursue basketball opportunities at other schools.

There's also the similar argument between those who say "losing players is bad, period" and those who advocate the necessity of winnowing the proverbial chaff. In hopes of not getting hit in the face with a steaming Zag bag of "you're a huge idiot," I will only couch gently the author's personal belief that while the latter idea is sounder in theory, the former is sounder in reality.

While almost everyone has spent time debating the prior points, a few have put forth another parallel argument altogether: while the team is currently in a good position to succeed, the entire 2008 class leaving is an indication of suspiciously poor recruiting efforts in 2006 and 2007. While I wish the issue of players leaving could be isolated this precisely, I'm not sure it can.

The 2008 class was constructed by Tommy Lloyd (Andy Poling), Ray Giacoletti (Grant Gibbs) and Leon Rice (Goodson). But from what we understand, Rice was much more of a coach during his time at Gonzaga than a recruiter. Goodson was one of very few recruits that Rice specifically brought into the program, and the only Top 150 recruit we could find that he ever brought in during his tenure.

Thus, while at least one recruiter from the "dark period" of 2006-2007 is no longer at Gonzaga, the overall difference in recruiting personnel and prowess between that period and now is scant. The most influential recruiters from that period, Giacoletti, Lloyd and Coach Few himself, are all still actively recruiting today. Every non-transfer member of the lauded and loaded 2011 class was acquired by one of these three.

Unless this is some weird Central Florida situation, the only notable difference from 2006-2007 recruiters and the team's current ones is the presence of Donny Daniels, who by all accounts is doing diligent work in Southern California. Daniels, however, only joined the program a year ago, and his full recruiting impact is just beginning (with new JC signee Guy Landry) to be felt.

The takeaway point is this: If there's a difference between Zag recruiting in the aforementioned "dark period" and Zag recruiting now, it's not in terms of personnel. If something was being done tactically differently back in 2006-2007 that might've affected the types of players we recruited, it was being done by the same people who are recruiting now.

But assuming, just for a moment, that something was askew in the staff's 2006-2007 approach to recruiting, we still don't know the "why." We know the official whys -- Gibbs "wanted to be closer to home," Poling, as a freshman, "wanted opportunities that afforded him more playing time," Meech wants to play football -- but we don't know for sure the events or sentiments leading up to the decisions that caused those 'whys.'

We can guess. We can conjecture. But we don't really know.

While the three of us at this site each have our individual (and probably similar) opinions about what this means for the state of the program, one thing is for certain: this was not the plan.

The coaching staff did not bring Demetri Goodson to Gonzaga to play basketball and start him in 68 of out of 69 games during his sophomore and junior seasons with the idea that he might leave.

Manny’s transfer might prove the most mysterious, if not controversial of the bunch.

But Meech’s is the most compelling indication of any of the recent seven that in the mid-to-late 2000's Gonzaga coaches recruited more and more kids either whom they didn't have a plan for, or whose plans went unfulfilled.