It has only been three games into the 2016-17 season, but one thing seems pretty sure to predict: Zach Collins will not be at Gonzaga for four years.
The freshman center is one of the most celebrated recruits to ever arrive at Gonzaga, and right now he has shown that he is worth all of the hype, and then some. Collins, despite playing in a crowded backcourt and on a team full of scorers, is currently the second-highest scoring Gonzaga player at 14.0 points per game—just 0.7 points less than leading scorer Przemek Karnowski.
Collins’ efficiency on the offensive end is one of the most impressive things about his game, especially considering his limited usage. He is averaging just 17.3 minutes per game, good for eighth most on the team. And yet, he is scoring better than virtually every other Gonzaga player.
If you look out across college basketball, Collins is one of six players in the entire country averaging 18.0 minutes or less per game, and scoring 14.0 points or more per game. What he is doing right now is truly special.
When you look at his numbers, it is easy to see how he is pulling off those numbers. Collins is shooting an insane 75 percent from the floor, as well as 75 percent from the free throw line. His true shooting percentage is 76.1 percent, and his offensive rating stands at 142.6, second-highest on the team for those players with meaningful minutes.
Collins has showcased that he can hit the open shot, but around the rim he is playing with a level of efficiency we haven’t seen since Domantas Sabonis last year. And even then, Collins is pushing past Domas’ for best return on investment when going down low. According to Hoop-Math.com, Collins is shooting 91.7 percent when he is at the rim. With such a ruthless ability to finish when at the hoop, I can expect we will start to see a whole lot more of plays like this:
Right now, things are clicking on all cylinders for the young man. Perhaps the only thing he needs to bring up to par with the rest of his game is his propensity for fouls, which as a young big man, is hardly the first player to have this issue.
The insane thing about all of this is it might be hard for Mark Few to be able to shovel more minutes Collins way. Karnowski has shown that his health is up to snuff and he is one of the few players on the team playing better basketball than Collins (but not by much). There were calls for Johnathan Williams to lose a few minutes, but Williams pulled his weight last night against the Bryant Bulldogs, scoring 20 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
Few is doing as great of a job juggling his big men as possible to open up this season. None of his four major players, Karnowski, Collins, Williams, or Killian Tillie, are averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
This is supposedly the year of the freshman, and most likely, Zach Collins’ is going to somehow fly under the radar of most national pundits, mainly because there really isn’t a need for him to get more minutes (e.g. Markelle Fultz at Washington), and he doesn’t play at Kentucky or Duke.
Which is totally fine by me. The Zags have a special player in Collins, and one who only gets better with each passing game. Collins is poised to make a huge impact on this team this season, but next year, he is set to take it over. When that happens, I fear for the rest of the competition.