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2020-21 Player Preview: Julian Strawther

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The second member of the Tricky Trio

Gonzaga Athletics

Sometimes it feels like Julian Strawther is the forgotten man of the Tricky Trio freshmen class. Jalen Suggs is the hyped-up Top 10 prospect and Dominick Harris committed so long ago that it feels like he’s been part of the roster for years already. But its Strawther who may be the most intriguing of the three.

The 6’7 wing from the Las Vegas area knows how to score the basketball. Gonzaga has not had many scoring wings who can slash to the rim over the years. Strawther will fill that void and then some. He averaged 30+ points and 10+ rebounds his senior season and left Liberty High as their all-time leading scorer and rebounder. In the U19 World Cup in 2019, he was second in the tournament in scoring with 22 points a game, including 35- and 40-point outbursts. He broke the Hoophall Classic scoring record with a 51-point performance in December. The guy gets buckets.

He chose Gonzaga because of their pace and ability to play freely in the half court. Strawther knows how to excel at both. He is capable of leading the break off his own rebound, but is also adept in the pick-and-roll game as both a screener and ball handler. With his size, he can be a match-up nightmare, and you may see him in some post isolations when checked by smaller guards. He’s nearly unstoppable when attacking down hill and is an extremely efficient finisher. The biggest question mark offensively is his ability to consistently shoot from the perimeter.

Defensively, he has the body to be a good defender, but with all freshmen, the question is whether they can adapt to the college game physically. Coach Few has remarked in interviews that both Harris and Strawther are ready to play right now and that was somewhat surprising to him. Now, Strawther has to actually earn those minutes.

As for intangibles, Strawther’s basketball IQ is off the charts. His motor allows him to grab key offensive rebounds and his vision off the ball is extremely smart. One of his most underrated traits on tape is the ability to flash to the ball when teammates are in trouble or simply when defenders fall asleep to get easy baskets.

It’s hard to tell on paper how many minutes Strawther will get as a freshman. His versatility could be a huge help. He has the ability to play both the 3 and 4 in Gonzaga’s system, and Coach Few has acknowledged that they may play small a lot more this season instead of playing two centers (Timme and Ballo/Zakharov) together. If that is the case, Strawther may be able to carve out more of a role. It seems hard to imagine that a top 75 prospect scoring 30 points a game in high school won’t be a huge factor right away, but he’s playing behind a fourth year starter and one of the best players in the country in Corey Kispert. Whether or not he plays a bunch of minutes, it will be incredibly beneficial to learn from one of the better leaders in recent memory. It will also be a good challenge for him to play with Anton Watson in practice, someone with a fairly similar body and intangibles.

The likeliest scenario feels like Strawther is the 9th or 10th man in the rotation, gets some good opportunities as the season progresses, and then absolutely explodes next season. It’s incredibly exciting to have a pure scorer and slasher at the wing, even more so when you think of the talent that could complement him the next couple seasons. If the coaching staff can help him become a better shooter, it opens up his driving ability even more and he will be lethal whenever the training wheels come off.