Back in 2016, the Gonzaga Bulldogs brought in Zach Collins, Zach Norvell, Rui Hachimura, and Killian Tillie all in the same class. In May of that year, I wrote an article titled “Gonzaga has turned a huge corner with recruiting.”
Last year, after Julian Strawther announced his commitment to Gonzaga, in April 2019, I wrote an article titled “Gonzaga has turned a huge corner with recruiting: Part 2.” Since then, the tricky trio was completed with the announcement of Jalen Suggs, giving Gonzaga their best recruiting class in school history, ranked No. 11 by the 247 Sports composite.
With the recent news of Paolo Banchero, one of the top recruits in the class of 2021 including Gonzaga in his final six, it feels fitting to add to this weird and sporadic running column on the evolution of the Gonzaga Bulldogs recruiting philosophy.
Just take a quick gander at the players the Zags are looking at for the class of 2021. It is legitimately nuts. Obviously, not all of those players are going to end up at Gonzaga. There is the chance that none of those players will end up Gonzaga. Sometimes, that is how the recruiting cookie crumbles.
It is a crazy world out there, however, and the Zags have already hosted four-star combo guard Hunter Sallis, five-star center Nathan Bittle, Banchero, and Jalen Suggs high school five-star center teammate Chet Holmgren.
When the Zags brought in all of those players in 2016, it was the balance of the old Gonzaga recruiting philosophy with a little bit of the new. The international flavor was there in Hachimura and Tillie (also Jacob Larsen, who departed the program) with some solid domestic lands of Norvell and Collins.
The class of 2020 was a declaration the Zags can generate some noise in the high school ranks in the United States. 2021 is already looking like a continuation of that statement.
All of this comes together at a time when the future of recruiting in the college ranks is looking a bit uncertain. The G League is making a power play on some of the top high school prospects in the country and taking zero prisoners in the process. Gonzaga, with its blend of talented domestic players and international contributors, is well suited to avoid much of this chatter.
The recruiting world is brutal, of course. For all the success the Zags had the past few years, the pendulum could easily swing back in the other direction. But for the time being, the mystique and reputation are growing. Top-rated players see Gonzaga University for what it is, a top-flight basketball program that will turn you into a winner. Players don’t just arrive at Gonzaga to be good, they arrive to become even better.
Five Gonzaga players have heard their names called during the NBA Draft since 2016. The success at the collegiate level is translating to success at the NBA level. The recruits are starting to take notice.
It is full-fledged lunacy to be talking about the class of 2021 when the very-possibly-preseason-number-one-2020 Gonzaga Bulldogs haven’t even made it to campus yet. We are living in a crazy time, however, and with each passing year, it is hard to not get excited about celebrating a national championship in the very near future.