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Zach Norvell’s status up in the air

A lingering knee issue is delaying the Freshman’s official debut.

NCAA Basketball: Utah Valley at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

In the days leading up to the start of Gonzaga’s season, one of the biggest roster questions was whether anyone else would get a redshirt. Freshman center Jacob Larsen went down with a season-ending knee injury during the offseason, but with Gonzaga’s depth at every position, there was a lot of belief that another freshman might be redshirted.

Rui Hachimura seemed to be the most likely candidate to join Larsen and sit out the season with the idea that he could use the year to assimilate to living in a new country and learn a new language. Most significantly, Hachimura probably had the highest jump in competition levels amongst the highly-touted freshmen, highlighted by the fact that he’s only the fifth Japanese-born male to play NCAA Division-I basketball. However, Hachimura was on the floor for Gonzaga’s opening game against Utah Valley burning his redshirt eligibility. But, there was another freshman that did not see the floor.

Gonzaga fans did not see Zach Norvell during the team’s scrimmage during Kraziness in the Kennel, and the team announced he was recovering from an offseason meniscus surgery. Fast forward another month, and Mark Few indicated that Norvell’s recovery was coming along a littler slower than anticipated.

Norvell finally made his appearance in the exhibition game against West Georgia and looked healthy to everyone, knocking down threes and slashing to the rim. Most observers, including myself, assumed Norvell was ready to go with the season set to start. But, with the conclusion of last night’s game, Norvell was the lone scholarship player to not see the floor (not including Larsen, for obvious reasons), sparking speculation that he might be the second player to redshirt this season.

However, after the game, Mark Few commented on Norvell’s status stating, “He’s going to be warmed up and ready to go. We’ll just play it by ear.” Norvell’s knee is likely still not 100% and the coaching staff is clearly taking a cautious approach with the team not in desperate need for his services.

For now, Norvell can warm up and dress for games without eliminating his eligibility to redshirt if he doesn’t actually play. The staff may just be buying him some more time to recover and see how he feels before making a final decision on whether to put him on the shelf for the year.

Norvell’s game is more than ready to contribute at the D1 level right now, so it’s not as if he needs the redshirt year for developmental purposes. While Kyle Wiltjer was preparing for the draft in Chicago over the summer, he crossed paths with Norvell and had this to say about the freshman, “He’s great. A high level shooter, a lot of confidence. I think he’s going to be a big-time player down the road. Zag fans can expect a lot from him, and I know he’s going to be in a great situation next year.”

Norvell backed up that sentiment in his West Georgia appearance, however, it may be in his best interests long term to take more time to recover and avoid lingering issues with his knee down the road. This is certainly a situation to monitor closely over the next few games.