Senior night is typically one of the most memorable nights of the year at Gonzaga. With the Zags tending to have most players stick around for four years, there is a real connection developed between the city and the players. The Gonzaga coaching staff hopes Zach Collins and his family will be the next to join in that tradition, as they hosted the talented 2016 prospect for an official visit last weekend.
While Zach and his dad had taken an unofficial visit prior to the season, this was the first chance the family had to take in a game and experience the Kennel.
"The whole idea with coming back for the official visit was to get that in-game feel that you can't really get on TV," explained Mike Collins. "The first thing you notice with the Kennel is that the students get there early. Most of the places we visit, people are coming in maybe five minutes before the game, but not at Gonzaga. It was really fun to watch that whole thing take place. It was really good stuff."
Unfortunately for the family, they witnessed the longest home-court winning streak come to an end with the loss to BYU. However, the loss allowed a true glance at the Gonzaga program.
"First and foremost, I'm sure there is lots of speculation about the loss and how that impacted everything," Mike said. "Quite frankly, a loss is a part of basketball, and the Zags haven't been playing great the prior couple of games. The great thing about the visit was that Zach was able to get into the nuts-and-bolts of the program and see the raw emotion after a loss. We got to see the raw nerve and how the players and staff reacted, which may have been a blessing in disguise."
In our interview prior to the visit, Mike had mentioned there were some direct questions he wanted answered on the visit. He explained how those were addressed.
"Within the last couple of weeks we have started to hear some negative recruiting, including some stuff about Gonzaga. We wanted to be able to ask the coaches about some of the things we had been hearing. We brought it up, and we didn't hear a certain answer from one coach, but we heard the same answer and the same belief from every coach. The hardest part of this whole process is hearing the negative recruiting and the misdirection. You have to figure out what is real and make your decision from that."
One of the key aspects of Zach's recruitment has been his comfort with the Gonzaga staff. This was reinforced during the time in Spokane.
" When you talk about the relationship with Zach and Coach Few, it's one of those things where they don't talk all the time on the phone," Mike explained. "Yet when we were on the visit, we would break off into groups, and Zach and Coach Few would always go off together. At one point we were walking into the gym, and my wife and I kind of held back, because Zach and Coach Few were on the court talking. The interesting thing was that it was Zach doing the talking and pointing on the court, and Coach Few was just listening. I can tell you this is something that is rare and not something you see on every visit."
"After we had a meeting in his office, we were walking back down to the court, and Gary Bell was shooting in the gym by himself. Coach Few excused himself and said he wanted to go and talk to Gary. We looked over and he was on the court just listening. You could tell it was a real conversation and it reinforced everything we have seen with him and Zach."
Now that the visits are over, the Collins family is really sitting down and evaluating where things stand.
"With the schools in his final five, you really start doing some soul-searching, which is where I think Zach is right now," revealed Mike. "He is getting an idea of what he can trust and what he doesn't. It's one thing for me as a parent, but it's a whole other thing for a 17 year old. It's one of those big situations in life, where he is really having to grow up and he knows he has to make a big decisions. He has expressed that he wants to take the next 3-4 weeks and get some separation from everything."