When Sam Dower committed to Gonzaga in September of 2008, he was the highest-ranked recruit in the class. A huge AAU season with Net Gain Sports propelled Dower into the Rivals 150, and it seemed like he would be an immediate contributor when he stepped foot on campus. Over the next six months, Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris also committed to Gonzaga, but most of the focus was on the impact that Dower would make when he arrived.
By the time all the signed LOI's were in, the 2009 class consisted of Sam Dower, Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk, Mangisto Arop and GJ Vilarino. The assumption among most fans was that Olynyk would redshirt, while Harris, Dower and Arop would see significant playing time. Surprisingly, before the start of the season, it was announced that Dower would redshirt. This would prove to just be the beginning of a five-year quest for consistent playing time for the talented scorer from Minnesota.
The interesting thing about Dower's first four years at Gonzaga is that no one is really to blame for him not finding consistent minutes. Elias Harris will go down as one of the greatest players to ever put on a Gonzaga uniform, while Kelly Olynyk transformed himself into an NBA Lottery pick. Robert Sacre was a consistent performer that did enough during his time in Spokane to earn an NBA contract. It's not easy to play behind three guys who have seen playing time in the NBA, especially when the expectations were so huge coming out of high school. However, instead of looking for immediate gratification and potentially transferring, Dower spent the past four years waiting for the opportunity to put his stamp on the program.
The maturity and leadership of Dower has been on full display ever since injuring his back against Kansas St. In the nine games since returning from injury, the senior PF has scored in double-digits eight times. He has recorded two double-doubles and shot over 50% from the field in all but one game. That one game happened to be against Santa Clara, when he hit a buzzer-beater to lead the Zags to a key road win. While Tyler Haws has put up some explosive numbers, it would be hard to argue against Dower being the current favorite for WCC POY.
As transfer rates continue to skyrocket, and players head to the NBA early, it's rare that you have the opportunity to watch a guy develop and wait for his moment to shine. While Kelly Olynyk was amazing last season, it came on so suddenly that it was almost hard to appreciate everything that happened. It's this development that has made the senior season from Dower so special to watch. He waited four years for the opportunity to shine, and without question, he has taken advantage of his moment and proven to be both a great player and a great leader for this team. While all Gonzaga fans loved last season, and most are already drooling at the potential roster for next season, let's take a minute to enjoy the fun ride this team could potentially provide. If nothing else, hasn't Sam Dower finally earned our attention after four years being stuck in the shadows?