The great thing about college basketball is that the legacy of role players is often just as long-lasting as the legacy of superstars. At Gonzaga, fans revere in memories of Mike Hart and Kyle Bankhead nearly as frequently as they remember fondly the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Adam Morrison. Whether you are a role player or a superstar, rest assured the fans will remember you with fondness.
One of the many, many things that separates Gonzaga fans from the rest of the college basketball atmosphere is our insatiable love of our team, from the top all the way to the bottom. That is why we show love not just to the superstars and the key role players, but every guy down to the end of the bench, including the infamous walk-ons.
Walk-ons have long been a part of Gonzaga lore, with many of them (including Mike Hart and David Stockton) carving out significant roles over time. However, just as important are the walk-ons who earn their way to a scholarship as glorified practice players and exceptional hype men on the sidelines during games. These guys may only see a few minutes a week in garbage time, but the role they serve is not measured in their statistics but in the relationships they form with their teammates and as true “glue guys” by fostering team building and team cohesion.
While no one man can top the legacy left by OG walk-on Rem Bakamus - who graduated after five seasons of roaming the sidelines, coming up with creative celebrations, and being the first to greet his teammates during timeouts - the Zags will look to pass the walk-on torch to redshirt sophomore Jack Beach.
Beach came to the Zags for the 2015-2016 season from Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, where he started at point guard and averaged 12.1 points per game and knocked down 130 three-pointers in 87 career games. Beach appeared in 13 games his freshman year, playing 20 total minutes and knocking down one bucket on four attempts. He redshirted last season but is listed on the roster for the upcoming year and even squeezed in four minutes of playing time in Gonzaga’s exhibition game against the College of Idaho last Saturday.
Beach’s role on this team will take place primarily in practice, where he will be expected to simulate upcoming opponents’ offensive schemes while pushing his teammates to get better week in and week out. He will hopefully fill the role vacated by Bakamus as the head cheerleader on the sidelines, greeting teammates with enthusiasm during timeouts and celebrating exuberantly and creatively on the sidelines after highlight-reel dunks or timely three point baskets.
Not everyone on a 15-man roster can contribute equally in the box score, but players like Jack Beach serve valuable roles in their own way. Beach’s role will be a vital one as the Zags gear up for another deep run into the NCAA tournament in 2017-2018.