One of the fun things about being a Gonzaga fan was watching players grow and develop over the years. 3 years ago, Karnowski looked like Baby Huey’s (look it up if under 50) cousin and Dranginis like the guy on a "please give" poster for the First Harvest Food Bank. Travis Knight would slim 'em down or bulk them up, moves would be developed, skills refined. Almost everyone had four or five years to work on their bodies and their games. Of course, getting one or two and done players was never really much of an option. Even with all the success of the past decade and a half, Gonzaga was the name mentioned by top 100 recruits at big time schools to get the boosters to add 10" to the wide screen televisions that magically appeared in their dorm rooms.
No, historically Gonzaga always been known for a specific "type" of player, highly skilled. but often lacking in elite athleticism. Sure there were notable exceptions, but usually not more than two or three elite athletes on any single roster. It’s not a coincidence many players were highly skilled, Few and company wisely recruited a lot of coaches sons (Stepp, Pangos, Morrison, Olynyk) and the sons of former players (Raivio, Wiltjer, Stockton, Sabonis, Daye). Kids who spent their formative years doing dribbling and passing drills; whose fathers taught them the jump shot was a dying art and if developed correctly it would save them tens of thousands of dollars in tuition. Foreign players often have the same type of skills oriented development; instead of learning bad habits on the playground they are taught the game in a structured setting guided by a coach. It was a working formula too, Gonzaga’s skilled athletes could consistently beat teams relying on superior athleticism. That is until they played a top 20 school whose players combined both athleticism and skills.
Don’t fret GU fans for the times they are a-changin’ and Josh Perkins is harbinger. Thanks to 30+ win seasons two of the last three years and 16 years of consistent success, GU appears to have shattered that glass ceiling on recruiting and transfers. We are finally getting several elite athletes with skills. Josh was a top 100 recruit, who passed up chances to play at UCLA, Kentucky and UConn. Sure his mistakes are frustrating, but there’s no denying his guts, talent and potential. Remember, he was out of basketball almost all of last season. NWG and JWIII are superior players with proven track records at BCS schools. The two Zachs; Collins and Novell are also top 100 propects, Jesse Wade a top 150. I’m excited to see Larsen, Tillie and Hachimura. Are they the next Sabonis, Turiaf and Harris or closer to Keita, Monninghoff and Edi. (No disrespect intended, all very good players)
One of the problems on this year’s squad, amplified by the loss of Karnowski is a lack of depth with only 9 scholarship players on the roster. Why so short, well NWG and JWII are taking up two slots, two went unclaimed. Few and staff may be suffering at present, but are doing so to secure the future. We fans may be getting antsy now, maybe even a little next year, but damn things sure look bright for this bunch in 2017. Hopefully Josh Perkins and the recruiting class of 2016 mark the beginning of a huge transition for the Gonzaga basketball program. Gonzaga will still get the same "type" players it has over the years, but it will also be a place where athleticism and skills aren’t mutually exclusive.