While this year’s freshman class does not yet have a calling card nickname like last year’s Tricky Trio, it’s impossible to ignore how incredibly talented and valuable Chet Holmgren, Kaden Perry, Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis will be in a Zag uniform.
Prior to Holmgren’s committal, Sallis was the highest-rated recruit to choose Gonzaga according to 247Sports and is the 20th overall player in his high school class. He is the first five-star basketball recruit to come out of Nebraska where he earned the Gatorade Player of the Year award.
The McDonald’s All American joins Holmgren as the confirmation that Gonzaga has matched the pedigree of blue bloods with his signing. Sallis chose the Bulldogs over Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Iowa State and Creighton. He averaged 22.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in his senior year of high school which ended with a state championship.
The combo guard is an absolute treat to watch in transition as he offers an elite level of athleticism and verticality. His slim 6-foot-5 frame allows him to soar with incredible hangtime. His bounciness slots him into the first-tier of finishers in this class. He’s adept at attacking the basket in a multitude of ways that make him a threat above the rim, under it and up-and-under. He also has a nasty floater that gives him a whole range of options. His verticality is as dynamic while he drives as when he leaps with two feet. He has a terrific second jump as well.
What makes Sallis even more valuable is his ability to play with the ball in his hands or without. The combo guard will grow into an NBA-level ball handler and point guard but is currently a nightmare on the wing and off the ball slashing to the basket. His court vision and hard work on the practice court make him a more than capable point guard with an elevated basketball IQ if Mark Few needed him to slide over.
Sallis’ value does not only come at the hoop, he is a multi-level scorer who has a solid jumper that will frustrate overly-committed defenders trying to protect the driving lane. If he continues to develop his perimeter shot he’ll be near unstoppable.
What may be most underrated about the guard’s game is his high-level defense. Sallis is a perimeter lockdown that really puts in the work on that end with active hands. His length also makes him a major disruptor of passing lanes. That defense leads to the impeccable transition offense that is his calling card.
Sallis will immediately fight for minutes in the loaded guard depth chart. His athleticism and elite two-way skills could make him a starter at some point in the season (if not from the jump) and if he shows comfortability with Few’s offensive system, expect him to earn extended play. His athleticism lets him play at three different positions in the college game. His comfortability off the ball only helps him in this aspect.
In what could be his lone season in college, Sallis’s freshman year will be one of highlight reels and building moments. It will be fun to see him unlock new skills and help Gonzaga reach even more levels the program hasn’t seen before.