When Silas Melson signed his letter of intent to go to Gonzaga, much was made of the off ball guard’s shooting ability.
Melson filled the bucket throughout his high school years, dazzling in high school tournaments, AAU circuits and all star competitions. Melson’s stroke is a pretty thing to watch. Former Zag greats like Dan Dickau have ogled over his work in offseason workouts and practices.
And the 2015-2016 season was seen as a possible coming out party for Melson, as he helped replace one of the best backcourts Gonzaga’s ever put out on the court. The 6-4 combo guard looked to offer perimeter shooting, defense and handle the ball for spells.
But much of the last year of Gonzaga basketball didn’t go according to plan. Melson only surpassed 30 minutes twice, and 25 minutes in 10 games. Coach Few doesn’t make much out of who starts, but it’s also hard to ignore Melson’s drop-off in playing time after the Bahamas. During the tail end of non-conference play, Melson’s field goal percentage was at 22 percent and 18 percent from behind the arc.
Few tried a combination of backcourts throughout the season, leaning on senior Kyle Dranginis’ experience and the hot hand between Bryan Alberts and Melson. Melson had his chances throughout the year, with his field goal attempts more than doubling. He still found a way to make an impact in games, quickly becoming a plus perimeter defender and helping the Bulldogs be a top 10 Division I defense in field goal percentage and three point shooting.
Melson’s shots couldn’t fall at times, but when it rained it poured. Of the 17 games that Melson made a three, he shot at least 50% in 10 of them. Melson’s season paralleled the team’s streakiness.
As an at-large selection turned doubtful with losses to SMU and Saint Mary’s, the team took their March fate into their own hands with Melson being one of the players that stepped up his performance. During the closing seven game winning streak, Melson shot 42.8 percent from three and 50 percent from the field.
It’s hard to blame Melson for his troubles. Calling his 2014-15 season a freshman year just doesn’t seem fair. Most of Melson’s minutes came in blowouts and averaged 5.2 minutes per game the last two months of the season. If it weren’t for a Kenny Gaines’ kick to Josh Perkins face, we’d be here looking forward to Melson’s sophomore season.
Melson’s bright spots offer optimism moving forward. With more experience under his belt, his shooting went up throughout the season. He’ll have plenty of opportunity moving forward, with the absence of Dranginis and Eric McClellan. The losses of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis will also offer more shots to be taken. What will be interesting is how the staff will work with the addition of transfer Nigel Williams-Goss and incoming freshman Zachary Norvell to the mix.
Regardless, Melson will see minutes if he continues playing like he did at the end of the season.