A lot of basketball programs like to brag about their culture, and to be perfectly honest, Gonzaga really isn’t that different. As an alumni of the school with my own experiences, I will be the first to admit, I am a bit biased. Gonzaga, at many times, just feels like one big community.
In that way, it is how you see it end up as a “dream school” for so many people. Will Graves grew up as a Zag, more so than a lot of people. His father is former Gonzaga Bulldogs women’s basketball coach, and current Oregon Ducks coach, Kelly Graves. So it seemed a no brainer that Graves would return to Gonzaga as a walk-on.
“I’ve been a Gonzaga fan my whole life,” said Will. “Even though I moved away, I never became distant with the team. Just being back here and being on the court instead of being in the stands is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
This year, Graves and fellow junior Matthew Lang are the elder statesmen of the bench mob. The crew of ragtags is responsible for so much work behind the scenes and maintaining a level of enthusiasm and flair during the games. The starters might be the ones scoring the points, but it is players like Grave who are establishing the tone, grit, and effort of all the members of the Bulldogs.
Last season, in his first full year of D-1 basketball, Graves saw a total of 27 minutes of game play and attempted eight shots. Stretch his stats out over 40 minutes per game, he averaged a very respectable 17.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, while attempting 10.4 three-pointers.
Of course, Graves will not see 40 minutes per game, but that doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t cheer like hell every time he steps on the court. A team is only as good as its practice squad, after all, because without players like Graves, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are not prepared for any of their upcoming opponents.