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Silas Melson can be Gonzaga’s next defensive ace

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There’s a role up for grabs, and Melson can be the one to fill it.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Utah vs Gonzaga Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Junior combo-guard Chance the Rapper Silas Melson is one of the most intriguing players on Gonzaga’s 2016-2017 roster. After two up-and-down seasons—one of which was originally supposed to be a redshirt season—Melson may finally be able to lock down a key role.

Based on the minutes he was getting at the start of last season, the coaching staff seemed to have big expectations for Melson. After logging 35-minute and 30-minute games early in the season against UConn and Washington State, Melson failed to score a single point in each of the next three games and did not hit the 30-minute mark again for the remainder of the season.

Coming out of Jefferson High in Portland, Oregon, Melson had a reputation as a dynamic scorer. And while there were flashes of his scoring ability at times throughout last season, he seemed to spend most of December and January searching for his confidence and consequently a role on the team.

Though he finished the season ranked 10th on the team in effective field goal percentage, Melson looked to be putting things together at the end of conference play. And while his offensive output certainly improved, it was his burgeoning defensive prowess that caught the eye and could be the key to a larger role in his junior campaign.

The coaching staff will have the ability to field lots of different combinations in the lineups, but for all the talent on this squad, the coaches do need someone to step into the defensive wing-stopper role capably filled by Eric McClellan, Kyle Dranginis, and Gary Bell Jr. over the last few seasons. Enter, Silas Melson.

The defensive ace doesn’t get the glamour that comes with being the 20-point scorer, but having a player who can handle the toughest defensive assignments every game is something every coach craves. Melson has the physical gifts for the job, but it also requires a mental edge in order to survive head-to-head battles with prolific scorers for 40 minutes on a nightly basis. Alongside McClellan, Melson produced some great defensive efforts in the WCC and NCAA tournaments against the likes of Brandon Taylor, Isaiah Whitehead, and Malachi Richardson.

Mark Few has grown accustomed to having a stopper on the wings in his defensive system, and the team’s defensive efficiency has benefited greatly for it. If Melson can fill the void left by McClellan and Bell before him as the perimeter ace, and with Przemek Karnowski back to anchor the interior, Gonzaga will have a great defense once again.