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2021-2022 Player Review: Bree Salenbien

Gonzaga’s highest rated recruit experienced the typical highs and lows of a freshman campaign, but that experience should set her up well for the future.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Stanford at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Breen Salenbien’s freshman season at Gonzaga was a year full of learning and adjustment. As the highest rated recruit in Gonzaga women’s basketball history—a title that Salenbien has the privilege and burden to bear indefinitely—it would have been easy for Salenbien and fans alike to expect big things right off the bat. But, that’s not usually how things work at the highest levels of collegiate basketball, regardless of one’s talent.

Salenbien’s role and minutes fluctuated throughout the season as she learned the ins and outs of Lisa Fortier’s system and adjusted to the demands of Division I basketball. She had a regular rotation role at the start of both non-conference and conference play highlighted by a 14-point performance against Pacific on January 13 in which she went a perfect 4-4 from the three-point line.

The talent that earned Salenbien her recruiting ranking and Michigan’s Gatorade Player of the Year Award in Michigan as a senior in high school was on display during several moments throughout the season. At 6’2”, Salenbien enjoys a real size advantage over just about every point guard that she’ll encounter along with the versatility to play off the ball and even in the post. Her game enables her to play alongside just about anyone on the roster and gives Lisa Fortier a wealth of lineup options.

But Salenbien was also still a freshman this season with a lot left to unlock in her game which should have Gonzaga fans thrilled about her future. She gained invaluable experience playing in 29 games this season, even though her minutes and role declined for a few weeks in February as she struggled from the field. While she didn’t get much of a chance to influence proceedings in Gonzaga’s biggest games of the year against Stanford and BYU playing 16 minutes total in those four games, just getting a taste of that level of competition gives Salenbien a good idea of the level she needs to take her game as she embarks on her developmental journey.

A left knee injury sustained in practice before the WCC Tournament caused her to miss the postseason and prematurely ended her season. Salenbien tore her right ACL as a junior in high school but rehabbed quickly and returned for her senior campaign, so she is no stranger to working her way back from injury. There were no indications from the program that her left knee injury was as severe, so hopefully it doesn’t cost her to miss out on valuable development time during the offseason and she’s at full strength this fall.

A big stop forward from Salenbien would make her a big time threat in the WCC and give the Zags a unique weapon to deploy as they aim for another run at the NCAA Tournament next season.