Gonzaga’s victory in the Geno Crandall transfer sweepstakes was considered to be one of the biggest recruiting coups of last summer. Fast forward to the present, and most Gonzaga observers would likely agree that Crandall was indeed a worthy addition to the squad.
Following a strong junior season at North Dakota highlighted by a 28-point performance at Gonzaga, Crandall’s announcement that he was entering the transfer portal made him one of the key recruiting targets in the graduate transfer market in 2018. The Gonzaga coaching staff, who keenly remembered Crandall’s performance at The Kennel, made sure to put on the full court press and get Crandall to Spokane.
Crandall’s addition shored up the only glaring weakness—back-up point guard/secondary ball handler—on Gonzaga’s roster heading into the season and solidified its status as a national championship contender. And while Crandall didn’t enjoy the benefit of a full training camp and preseason to assimilate with his new teammates due to his October arrival on campus, the speed with which he integrated into the program was impressive.
At the Maui Invitational, Mark Few remarked to me that “Geno seemed comfortable from Day 1.” As a graduate transfer and veteran player, Few added “I don’t know if he’s just got the savvy and the confidence to even mask it a little bit, but being a 5th year player obviously helps.”
That maturity and savvy helped Crandall slide into the rotation quickly, and the hand injury that sidelined him midway through the non-conference schedule made apparent just how much his energy and defensive intensity were missed.
Two things stand out about Crandall’s lone season. The first is how much of his own game Crandall was willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. His counting numbers in the box score were essentially slashed in half between his junior year at North Dakota and his senior year at Gonzaga. While that may seem like an obvious and natural consequence of going from “the man” on a low-major team to a rotation player on a team with Final Four aspirations, there’s a reason why Crandall was so coveted on the transfer market last summer—he could really play. To give up being the number one option in his final year of college basketball in order to be a Zag tells you everything you need to know about what he values as a competitor.
The other stand out contribution from Crandall was how quickly he emerged as a leader of the team. As a point guard, Crandall was comfortable as a high-level communicator on the floor. If you observed him on the sidelines or off-the-court, it was readily apparent how respected he was by his teammates and how much he cared about them despite only playing with them for six months. One of the lasting memories I’ll have of Crandall is the image of him draping his arm around a distraught Zach Norvell Jr. to comfort him following the loss to Texas Tech. There was a senior who had just played his final collegiate game and who had just missed out on the opportunity to play in the Final Four in his hometown, putting his younger teammate ahead of himself. That moment perfectly captured who Geno Crandall is as a person and teammate.
It’s a shame that Gonzaga only had him for one season, but Geno Crandall will always be a Zag.