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Reflecting on Josh Perkins' freshman campaign

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The Gonzaga point guard had an up and down year that luckily ended more on the upside.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Gonzaga v Utah Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

When reviewing the season of Josh Perkins, we need to take a look at a couple of factors to try and help guide our thought process.

  1. Perkins was a redshirt freshman due to getting his jaw demolished and wired shut. He didn't get to do anything, let alone play basketball, during this time.
  2. Perkins was expected to replace the steady hand of Kevin Pangos, which in itself was always going to be an expectation he would fail.

With that out of the way, it is important to note that Perkins definitely struggled this year, especially early on. The genetic makeup of this team meant he had to struggle, there was no one to go in to replace him. Despite a random call of trying out Dustin Triano, the roster was designed for pretty much Perkins, and only Perkins, to be the point guard.

There was a definitive learning curve involved with that. And, for the most part, Perkins showcased that he was learning. It just took a long time for that to happen. Take a look at his season splits between conference and non-conference games.

FG% 3P% FT% APG TO PPG
Non-Conf 39.4 29.8 57.1 3.9 2.6 8.5
WCC 46.6 46.3 74.5 4.2 1.6 10.9

You can say, yeah, well the non-conference was against harder competition, so of course he struggled. But Perkins threw up some clunker games against heavyweight such as Northern Arizona and Montana. He was turnover prone. He was great at passing half the time, but the other half of the time his passes were going into the stands. Perkins was still playing with a bit of that flashy high school mentality where he was a superior athlete to everyone around him.

Freshmen do that. For Perkins, it was rough timing. If this team was winning at the beginning of the season, he might have gotten more of a pass for his troubles. Instead, he became the lightning rod for everything wrong with this team. Even after the loss to Saint Mary's at home, much of the Internet was still saying something along the lines of, Perkins needs to be benched, he is detrimental to this team (the site's Twitter account was quite entertaining at that time). No one cared whatsoever that Perkins led the team with 21 points and an ORtg of 113, and that if any other single player showed up to play in that game we would've won. None of that mattered. Each loss, it always somehow seemed to be Perkins fault.

He no doubt earned much of that vitriol early in the season. His play was sloppy at best and infuriating at worst. Every time he seemed to be taking a step in the right direction he would take two steps backwards. The Zags, a team that has always been known for its steady guard play, suddenly didn't have a single steady guard and no one was quite sure what to do.

That is why it was so crucial to have the season close out as it did, with Perkins playing some all around steady ball. Let's forget about that loss to Syracuse here, because we are looking at the bigger picture. That bigger picture, the entire time, has always involved Perkins as the future point guard of this team.

After ensuring a WCC regular season conference title, Perkins helped deliver against BYU. He had eight points, but most importantly five assists and zero turnovers to help in the win. The strong play continued into the WCC Tournament to make sure that the Zags NCAA Tournament streak wasn't going to end. During this time, when it mattered most, Perkins gutted it out and showed us that he can be a great basketball player and someone to get excited about. Hopefully, that trend will continue into next year.