During every recruiting class, the Gonzaga coaching staff tends to find one recruit early in the process that they identify as the priority guy. Some examples that jump immediately to mind include Austin Daye, Matt Bouldin, Gary Bell Jr. and Josh Perkins. As you can tell by the list, these recruits typically have great success once they hit Spokane, as these are guys the staff has identified as ideal fits for Gonzaga.
While it may seem early in the process, it has become clear that Zach Collins has emerged as that recruit in 2016. The Las Vegas native has caught the attention of the entire staff, and he and his father Mike recently made their first trip to Spokane for a visit.
According to Mike Collins, the trip to Spokane was an eye-opening experience, especially compared to life in Las Vegas.
"I'm a Vegas boy, born and raised," Mike explained. "Being from here, you are kind of isolated. I had never been to Spokane before. One of my best friends, his family lives up there so it was nice to get there and see everything."
"We absolutely loved Spokane. It was phenomenal. There was no traffic, everyone was smiling and the weather was just perfect. It was a very pleasant place."
While the city and people of Spokane certainly made an impact on Zach and Mike, it was Coach Few and the staff that really made the experience memorable.
"This trip was the first time we were really able to get to know Coach Few," explained the Las Vegas native. "He is not a big talker on the phone, but when he does call, he is genuine. I'm not sure if this is the right word, but he is monumental on the phone. He tells you exactly where he stands. We hear from 10 coaches a day, and I can tell you that Coach Few is special.
"When we went to Spokane, there were times when the coaching staff and I were waking around campus, and we would look up and Coach Few and Zach were 200 yards ahead on their own just talking. I asked Zach what they were talking about it, and he explained they were just talking and getting to know each other. That is big for us, that kind of relationship, especially since we are a close family."
Not surprisingly, Coach Few and the staff have made it clear how much they value Zach and the impact they think he could make in Spokane.
"When I tell you that the phone calls are monumental, it's because he has communicated just how important Zach is," Mike said of the conversations with Coach Few. "He has told us that Zach is the key player for them, not just the key big guy. Zach is incredibly strong with his passing and basketball IQ and he has the ability to knock down 3's. At 16 years old he was able to go on the court in Spokane and play with the seasoned veterans."
With Zach being such a versatile prospect, a program that knows how to use a versatile big man will be important.
"Inevitably, that will be what decides where our family goes. Even though we won't live where Zach goes, it's where our family will be, because that's how important our family is to all of us. I tell the coaches all the time, it's going to come down to the fit in terms of the type of basketball the team plays, how they play together and Zach's relationship with the coaches and players."
This comfort level and relationship is something that has grown incredibly strong between Coach Michaelson and the Collins family.
"I can tell you that Coach Michaelson has done a great job," revealed Mike. "He and Zach have become friends and no coach has worked harder than he has. There are people that Zach has known for 10 years and they don't know Zach as well as he does. That's how hard Gonzaga has worked recruiting Zach."
While many recruits are consistently sharing their list of schools, Zach has kept his recruitment a bit more quiet, which fits with his personality.
"Zach is very cerebral," Mike explained. "I think in his heart, he knows what he wants to do, but he needs to go through the search and process on his own terms. I know he has top 5 or 6, but he hasn't told it to us. However, he is consistent in that he wants to commit in the spring, or even earlier."
Although new offers continue to come in seemingly everyday, there is no doubt that Gonzaga has made a big impression on Zach and his family.
"We tell all the coaches that Zach's recruitment is still open. Everyone is coming out of the woodwork. He has received offers each of the past two days. With that being said, there is a reason why Gonzaga is so postiive. All of the characteristics are right in Zach's realm. That's also why we feel so strongly about ASU and took a visit there. Arizona is a juggernaut and they treat us well and are starting to get to know Zach. Cal, UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego St. are right there as well. We paid money to visit these places because we have real legitimate interest."
However, if there is one story that might sum up how Zach feels about Gonzaga, it comes from a conversation he had after playing with the team.
"After he (Zach) ran pickup with the guys, I asked him how everything he went. He looked at me and he said ‘those guys are good'. I asked him what he meant and he told me that they just play basketball the right way. As a coach, it's important to recognize they were playing that way in pickup. That is a big deal and I don't think that can be understated."