There was a fantastic article in the Chicago Tribune recently about incoming recruit Zach Collins. The article detailed, among other things, how Collins is the first McDonald's All-American recruit in school history.
But it also contained an interesting tidbit from Collins that deserves some extra notice.
"Kelly Olynyk came in as a freshman, nobody knew much about him, he didn't play a ton, and in four years he turned into a great player, and now a very good player in the NBA," Collins said of the Boston Celtics center. "It's about the confidence the coaches give you, the way they develop their guys and I know if I work hard, they're going to put me in the best position to succeed."
Yes, that is Collins talking about the Olynyk Clinic, and it might be one of the first times we have seen it referenced by an incoming recruit. This is very important.
The Zags have one of their best incoming classes coming in, which is huge. The issue is that for little old Gonzaga, it will always be harder to compete against the likes of Kentucky, Duke, UNC, Michigan State, insert any big name school here. That is just the face of recruiting. The Zags have adapted by making a more conscious push at finding players in Europe, and it has paid dividends.
All Gonzaga has needed for sometime is some success stories. Players go to Kentucky because nobody does a better job of prepping a player for the NBA than John Calipari does. And yeah, you can say blah blah blah going to Gonzaga is a better four-year experience, but remember, we are talking kids here. These kids want to go and have fun in college and be a part of a program. But the dream is the NBA, and they will take the route that helps them get there.
Gonzaga used to not really have that aspect of it. Players have come in and out of the NBA, but most of the biggest name Gonzaga players from recent memory have found their success in Europe. Kelly Olynyk is the closest thing the Zags have to a success story, but his one goes a long way. Olynyk is now in his third season with the Boston Celtics, averaging 20.5 minutes, 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Nothing he does necessarily jumps out of the box score, but again, he is playing in the NBA.
And we all know the story of Olynyk in college. A beanpole that landed at Gonzaga in 2009, redshirted in 2011-12, and turned into one of the best forwards in college in 2012-13.
So to see Zach Collins mention that is a big thing. The Zags will never be able to land the hottest big name center in high school over the likes of the bigger power schools. That is just the fact of the landscape. But the Zags will be able to tell players about Kelly Olynyk. They will be able to tell players that if you put in the work, this coaching staff can turn you into a star.
On top of that, what helps is the pride of the school in the players that continue.
This is the Gonzaga way. Kelly Olynyk is the perfect ambassador for that success model. Hopefully, Zach Collins isn't the last one to pay attention to it.