Back in 2016, the Gonzaga Bulldogs brought in Zach Collins, Zach Norvell, Jacob Larsen, Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie. In May 2016, I wrote an article titled “Gonzaga has turned a huge corner with recruiting” because the Zags class was ranked No. 14 overall, the previous highest mark.
Obviously, the current highest mark is the class of 2019, which led by Anton Watson, Drew Timme, Brock Ravet, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zakharov and Oumar Ballo, is ranked No. 5 in the country.
And with the news of Julian Strawther signing with GU, the highest-rated recruit since Zach Collins, the Zags’ too-early class of 2020 ranking is No. 1.
The Zags are coming off their finest five-year stretch of college basketball in program history, and although next year’s squad will most likely take a step back (losing multiple players to the NBA Draft early will do that to you), the Zags aren’t skipping too many beats on that march to the championship.
The most interesting thing about the class of 2019 and the class of 2020 is the variety it showcases. For a few years, Gonzaga was building the program upon the strength of its international recruiting. Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis and Rui Hachimura all highlight that stretch recently.
Next season, the Zags will have players from France (as of now Killian Tillie, Joel Ayayi), Serbia (Filip Petrusev), Russia (Pavel Zakharov), Lithuania (Martynas Arlauskas) and Mali (Oumar Ballo). Tommy Lloyd has racked up platinum-benefit miles on every single airline on the planet.
It also is finely mixed with top prospects across the nation—highlighted by Drew Timme (Anton Watson and Brock Ravet are nice too — but they were homegrown).
All the way back in 2018, on these boards and everywhere in Gonzaga land, there was a bit of panic as David Singleton went to UCLA, Chase Jeter went to Arizona, Brandon Williams went to Arizona, Taeshon Cherry went to USC (and then Arizona State), Andrew Nembhard went to Florida, Kamaka Hepa went to Texas and Brandon Williams chose Arizona for the second time.
This coaching staff proved we were all fools to ever doubt the ability of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Starting with Timme, and continuing with the class of 2020, this is the next step in the program’s evolution. After relying on international prospects and transfers for quite some time, Gonzaga has now in multiple years competed with the big recruiting boys and come out on top.
Incoming 2020 point guard Dominick Harris visibly lobbied hard for Strawther, and the two are now lobbying hard for one of the top guards in the country in Jalen Suggs to join the fun in Spokane. As it stands now, in 2020, five of the seven highest-rated Gonzaga recruits by 247 Sports will be on the same squad, only missing Zach Collins and Austin Daye.
There might be a slight shift, at some point. The program will probably feel the reverberations of Donny Daniel’s retirement at some point along the process. At the same time, the hiring of Roger Powell Jr. should offset those rumblings to a certain degree.
After this season, I’ve been referring to the past five years as the peak of the program. In reality, it is just a false summit. The Gonzaga machine continues to lurch onward, and with the talent of the next couple of years coming in, the national championship feels more legitimately like a when, not if, statement.