Going into the season, many of us thought Perkins and Melson would be natural fits to fill the voids left by Pangos and Bell. A new supremely talented point guard and his sharpshooting side kick who could also play defense and had enough hops to win a dunk contest. Melson looked like a potential star right out of the gate, literally going from street clothes one night to playing against St. John’s two nights later. He went 2 for 4 from the field that first game, including hitting a three-pointer. He seemed unfazed about the enormity of playing in the nationally televised NIT Season Tip-Off championship game and the hostile crowd in America’s cathedral of basketball. He was fearless, with confidence and swagger to go along a pretty sweet looking shooting stroke.
Fast forward to present day and the same player looks like a broken man. For the third straight game, his FGM is printed on the front of his jersey. It’s not unreasonable to assume the Arizona and UCLA losses may not have occurred if Melson played with the same skill and confidence he did that first game. So what happened? How did a seemingly can’t miss shooting star become a starter who air balls a 17-foot jumper then spends most of the 2nd half of an important game on the bench.
After going 5 – 6 against Mount Saint Mary’s, the first inkling of trouble was his 0 – 5 performance against UW in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Melson walked off the court against UW shaking his head and looking dejected instead of shaking it off and enjoying a big win. Shaken or not, he seemed to rebound playing okay against A&M, pretty well against UConn and was one of the keys in WSU victory. Then the bottom fell out, tentative while going 0-3 against Arizona, he looked awful going 0 – 5 against Montana. It wasn’t just missing the shots in the Montana game, it was the shot selection. A missed three early in the shot clock when Few audibly clapped his hands and screamed "com’ on", a double clutch lay-up in traffic where he didn’t draw iron, an off balance jumper that clanged straight down from the front of the rim, he was trying to shoot his way out of a slump with bad shots. Few hates bad shots and one can only speculate about what was said during the post-game review. Whatever it was it didn't work. Despite starting against UCLA, possibly to boost his confidence, Melson's shooting woes continued and he ended up playing only 14 minutes.
In a normal year, a player lacking confidence and forcing shots would be deep in Few’s doghouse, relegated to garbage time and considering where to transfer during his long periods on the bench. This ain’t a normal year, Karnowski's injury leaves the team with only 8 scholarship players available. Even with his poor shooting, Melson provides more than just a warm body to spell Perkins and EMac. He’s a good defender, good rebounder and the best free throw shooter among the guards. Few has to find a way to rebuild his confidence in his shooting stroke and Saint Martin’s may just be what he needs. Start him again, like was done against UCLA, and give him the green light to fire away. Three years ago, freshman Kyle Dranginis lit up Lewis-Clark State for 30 in a similar game. That’s exactly what Melson needs tonight, keep him in the game when the bench clears and let him put up some numbers. Gonzaga has enough problems without their shooting guard going 0 for every night. What they need is that confident, talented kid who showed up at Madison Square Garden last November.