Julian Strawther may be one of the biggest signifiers of this era of Gonzaga basketball’s embarrassment of riches.
The 6’7, four star wing is without a doubt the highest profile recruit at his position Gonzaga has landed. His smooth stroke and scoring skill set was seen as a perfect addition for coach Mark Few’s offensive system. He just had the impediment of a senior All American who averaged 31.8 minutes per game and a trio of guards filling in his place.
That logjam resulted in Strawther largely playing against low-level and WCC competition in the awkward pacing of a blowout’s final minutes. But in those minutes, you could instantly tell that Strawther knew how to fill-up the stat sheet.
Extrapolating his output, he paced at 17.98 points and 6.3 rebounds per 40 minutes. It was clear through the limited minutes that Strawther is a rhythm shooter that is great in off ball movement but absolutely dynamic off the dribble.
It’s exciting to imagine nights where Strawther plays extended minutes once he shows that he’s “on” with his first few attempts from the field. The limited minutes may exaggerate the idea of streakiness, but it seemed like when Strawther was feeling it, he couldn’t miss. He shot 51.7% from the field and 32.1% from three point range.
Strawther showed throughout his high school career that his 2020-2021 season was not indicative to his outside shot, and you can likely chalk up the percentage to the difficulty of shooting after sitting for 30 plus minutes.
He showcased that he has great feel and ability at all ranges of the offense and will no doubt be a bully in the midrange and on mismatches because of his length. Gonzaga’s high pace is perfect for Strawther’s skill set, as his gliding and comfortability in the half court translates incredibly well on the break, taking advantage of whatever mismatch may occur on scrambling pick-up defense.
Strawther throughout every level of competition his ability to make his defender guess on his next move. He routinely would show tremendous footwork backing down a smaller defender, or outworking a larger man in his footwork and jump steps.
Strawther could easily translate to a lighter, perimeter oriented Elias Harris type player in Few’s system that is a bit more comfortable in the midrange and more mobile. Now, it’s still to be seen if Strawther can be the rebounder that Harris was and he still has plenty of room to develop defensively.
But that scorer and inside-out scoring hasn’t been seen often at the small forward/third guard position for Gonzaga. And it could be incredibly interesting to see how the interchangeable size and position ability for this 2021-2022 team can allow for the Zags to take advantage of matchups on every single night.
Strawther and freshman unicorn Chet Holmgren offer Few the ability to have a constant scoring threat in the post and outside of the paint at all times, which will only make the high percentage inside scoring grow in pick-and-rolls and other sets.
One thing is clear, though we’ll be excited and happy to see Strawther get in his bag next season, we’ll miss the joy and videos he made while loving last year’s ride and his teammates.