One of the downsides of playing for a high level program like Gonzaga is sometimes the expectations are just too high to be realistically met. Case and point: Silas Melson.
Silas Melson’s redshirt freshman campaign was cut cruelly short by Josh Perkins face getting obliterated. So Melson had to get his seasoning on the fly, and as we all detailed, it was a rather rough ordeal. The same thing carried over his sophomore season, where Melson and Josh Perkins were filling in the shoes of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., a task that could never be completed properly.
So right off the bat, a whole hearted kudos to Melson, because a lot of players might have cracked under the pressure and expectations on him. He didn’t, and that says something even more so when you consider his numbers both freshman and sophomore years didn’t leave a lot to be desired.
This season, Melson has fully bought into his new bench role, which is exactly what he needed to do. The end result is a player that gives Gonzaga exactly what they need: grit. It is the plight of the glue guy, doing everything and always under appreciated. But for Melson, it was exactly what he needed to do on this team to remain relevant.
Melson has also changed his offensive game to compliment the transformation. There are a few ifs, ands, or buts about it, Melson can score. He was an Oregon Player of the Year, after all. The issue, of course, has been consistency for Melson, but this season he has taken steps to changing that as well.
He is a big guard, and he is a fearless guard. He takes it to the hoop with greater authority than most of our guards, and the end result shows. He is shooting 61.5 percent on his shots at the rim, and that has helped raise his two point percentage to 52.4 this season, off of 44.7.
Now granted, the three point percentage is still way too far down, but Melson is roughly attempting them at the same clip he was last season. There are also signs of life there as well. Through the first eight games of the season, he was shooting 20 percent from beyond the arc. In the last four games, he has gone 6-of-13 from long range.
Most importantly, the evolution of Melson’s game has come in his defensive abilities. His defensive rating is a career low, at 91.8 (that is good). He is routinely tasked with holding down the best player on the opposing squad, and with him taking that role, it allows Nigel Williams-Goss, Josh Perkins and Jordan Mathews to operate much more freely on offense. By all means, college players can play both stellar offense and stellar defense at the same time, but it gets tiring to operate at such a high level on both ends of the court at this age.
There has been an across the board improvement of the young guard, and it is just as important of a key as every thing else has been for the Zags this season.