As basketball season inches closer, I continue to have a resounding thought in my head. "I can't believe Pangos and Bell are seniors." I mainly have this thought because it continues to emphasize how far removed from college I am but it truly does seem like yesterday when those guys committed to Gonzaga and sent the city of Spokane into a collective tizzy.
Gary Bell, in particular, was a coup for Mark Few. The talented guard from Kentridge High School in Kent, WA had offers from virtually everyone in the Pac-12. UCLA and UW were all over Gary but it was Mark Few that basically took up residence in Gary's high school gym and wound up stealing his signature. As we gear up for Gary's senior season, his career has been full of ups and downs. He's had his fair share of injuries while at Spokane which has hindered his development at times but the three-year starter is gearing up for a big senior season alongside his running mate, Kevin Pangos.
As we continue to look at this team vs. the 2008-09 season. In this edition of that comparison, we focus in on Gary Bell and compare him against one of the most revered Zags in modern history, Matt Bouldin. Let's take a look at the case for each player as we try to identify the most talented bunch.
The case for Bouldin: It is interesting to compare these two players because they both share the unique privilege of earning Mark Few's trust before they even put on a Gonzaga uniform. Bouldin, like Bell, made a huge impact right away as a freshman, something we don't see often in this program. When looking at Bouldin, it was his offensive ability that made him one of the all-time great Zags.
During his four-year career at Gonzaga, Bouldin was an extremely efficient offensive force. For his career, he averaged 13 points per game while shooting 46% from the floor and 38% from deep. His best asset may have been his ability to create for his team as he averaged 3.3 assist per contest. While he wasn't a complete liability on defense, it was never his strong suit. In addition, while throwing up gaudy stats, he struggled when going against elite athletes.
The case for Bell: It is interesting to look back on Gary's career to this point because his offensive production is beyond stellar on paper. A career of 10 points per game, shooting 46% from the floor and 43% from deep is absolutely nothing to scoff at but if you ask most Zag fans who is better offensively between Gary and Matt, I'm guessing 90% would say Bouldin. To understand why that is, I'd point towards the field goal attempts line. Bouldin averaged about 10 shots per game during his career. Gary's average attempts are closer to 7 per game. The common thought is that Gary is too conservative on the offensive end which I think is valid but there is hope. Last year, he averaged 7.7 attempts vs. 7.0 as a freshman.
Gary's offense may not get enough credit because most of us are focused on his defensive prowess. While he is a bit undersized, Bell is usually always earmarked to defend the opponents best perimeter player. He's a tireless defender that is particularly good chasing around good shooters and is also a stellar on-ball defender.
The verdict: Similar to Max's first post on Pangos v. Pargo, this is a complete toss-up. If you want a facilitator that can make plays all over the floor, go with Matt. For me, I'm taking all the defense I can get and I will take a healthy Gary Bell in this case. Matt is an all-time great to play at Gonzaga and it pains me to not pick a fellow Colorado boy but when I think about things that plague Gonzaga, it is consistently on the defensive end. That, and I think Gary, if he stays healthy, is poised for a senior season to remember.