Trying to pick a single person related to the Gonzaga program for the calendar year of 2016 is next to impossible, especially considering 2016 will always encompass two different halves of two different seasons.
And the fact of the matter is the players who make an impact at the beginning of 2016 might not be around to make a difference in the latter months of 2016. Just look to Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis, Kyle Dranginis, Eric McClellan, Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews, Jeremy Jones, Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie, Zach Collins, Przemek Karnowski, and Johnathan Williams as players that we haven’t seen for all of 2016. That said, the easy pick for the player that had the biggest impact on 2016 was rather simple.
Domantas Sabonis is your Slipper Still Fits Person of 2016.
Where do we start with the young man’s accomplishments?
He was the first Gonzaga Bulldog to average a double-double in recent memory, 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Sabonis elevated his game from merely great to absolutely monsterous after Przemek Karnowski went down with a season-ending back injury. He ranked No. 17 in the nation in PER, and for a struggling Gonzaga squad, he did everything needed to drag them kicking and screaming in the NCAA Tournament. He was an AP All-American Honorable Mention and WCC First Team All-Conference. For all of his efforts, he was rewarded as the No. 12 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
But the true might of Sabonis was showcased at the end of the season. Following a loss to Saint Mary’s at home on Feb. 20, the Zags were officially dead in the water. It was win the conference tournament or watch the whole NCAA Tournament streak come crumbling to a sad end. Sabonis, more so than anyone else on the team, elevated his game with the required intensity to pull off the feat.
After finishing with seven points and 13 rebounds against Saint Mary’s, here is how he finished out the season:
- @ San Diego: 17 points, 17 rebounds
- @ BYU: 15 points, 14 rebounds
- WCC Tournament vs. Portland: 24 points, four rebounds
- WCC Tournament vs. BYU: 18 points, 14 rebounds
- WCC Tournament vs. Saint Mary’s: 15 points, eight rebounds
- NCAA Tournament vs. Seton Hall: 21 points, 16 rebounds
- NCAA Tournament vs. Utah: 19 points, 10 rebounds
- NCAA Tournament vs. Syracuse: 19 points, 17 rebounds
The Zags season was over and Sabonis brought it back from the dead. The impact he made on the program in the two short years was nothing short of phenomenal. Sabonis is No. 8 in all-time rebounds with 694. He exited Gonzaga with the highest field-goal percentage in a season in school history at 66.8 percent, beating out Casey Calvary at 65.8. He also holds the career field-goal percentage at 63.2. His 426 rebounds in a season are third best in school history.
Congratulations Domantas Sabonis. You made your mark, and then some, in your unfortunately two short years here at Gonzaga. And for that, we present you with this very non-prestigious award.