When Filip Petrusev decided to end his collegiate career early and play professional basketball in Serbia, there was a surprising lack of concern about the immediate future coming from the Gonzaga fanbase. Most fanbases would react in shock at losing a player of Petrusev’s caliber.
If you want to know what is expected of sophomore center Drew Timme this season, look at the fanbase’s reaction. Although losing Petrusev is a blow, Timme fills a majority of those holes almost immediately, and there are a lot of eyes on how he will improve upon his sophomore year.
In his freshman season, Timme averaged 9.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game in 20.5 minutes. He was an absolute workhorse down low, bringing an old-school style of play back to Gonzaga—more reminiscent of Zach Gourde than Kelly Olynyk.
Looking at the stats, Timme was an efficient scorer, thanks to his focus on footwork, pump fakes, and the post moves of yesteryear. His ORtg of 121.5 ranked higher than Petrusev (114.6), he was a somewhat better offensive rebounder, a slightly worse defensive rebounder, a better blocker, and he still drew fouls at a good clip (not nearly as many as Petrusev). So straight off the bat, he will be able to slot in and replace a good chunk of Petrusev’s production.
Head coach Mark Few has said that Timme is in line for more touches, but we probably shouldn’t expect his stats to reach Petrusev levels from last season. Last year, due to one of the lower-scoring backcourts in recent Gonzaga memory, the gameplan was constantly to funnel the ball into the post. That will still happen, of course, but with Jalen Suggs in the backcourt and Corey Kispert’s senior year as well, Timme will not be the primary option for every single possession. He will, of course, be the primary option in the post.
The increase in minutes is a lot to be excited about. Timme’s per 40 minute averages last year were 19.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He has clearly established he knows how to ball in the post.
For Timme to truly succeed, of course, he will have to introduce a bit more range into his game. As Steven wrote about earlier this year, Timme and Petrusev were one of the worst combinations on the floor, largely because they play similar styles. There isn’t much to suggest that Oumar Ballo and Timme on the floor at the same time will be any different unless Timme shoots better than 1-of-3 from the three-point line.
Timme arrived at Gonzaga as a rather complete freshman package. He was advertised as a skilled post player and demonstrated that immediately. Outside of the standard freshman “needs to foul less” part of his game, Timme is one of those players who plays basketball beyond his years. It will be exciting to see how he elevates his game this year as the de-facto “veteran” of the frontcourt.