When you read anything about Drew Timme, the conversation usually centers around his most visible attributes; his skill, footwork, swagger, personality…..even his Northern Quest Casino commercials. They’re all impressive, but they aren’t the things that really impressed me about Drew this past season. I want to discuss his selflessness, tenacity, and leadership.
This past summer, Timme posted several videos of his workouts with trainer Tyler Ralph in Dallas. Adding three-pointers and mid-range jumpers to his exceptional post game would surely raise the prohibitive National Player of the Year favorite’s NBA draft stock. You’d think he’d take a lot more shots too, especially with the Zags losing over 55% of their offensive output from the previous season.
Gonzaga’s first five games this past season consisted of four, 300-level KenPom teams with #5 ranked Texas being the second game of the season. When Drew torched Texas for 37 points hitting 15 of his 19 shots, most guys vying for player of the year and trying to impress NBA scouts would abuse the 300-level teams to pad their stats. Nope, after the Texas game, the Zags played Alcorn State and Timme took only eight shots but did distribute six assists. In fact, his 6 of his 10 lowest scoring games and 8 of his 10 least shot attempt games were against sub-200 teams with the outcome never in doubt. Instead of padding his stats, Timme would share the glory with his teammates.
One of the questions at the beginning of the season was “is there enough room in the paint for both Timme and Chet Holmgren.” It wasn’t an issue, in fact, Holmgren made 74% of his two-point attempts for the season. Timme had no problem backing off and letting the freshman do his thing. If there was a problem, it was Timme and Holmgren committing too many turnovers trying to force the ball into one another in the post.
For a guy who spent his summer working on his shooting, Timme only took 28 three-point attempts in 32 games. Yeah, he only shot 29% and continuing the poor shooting probably would have hurt his stock and the team but give him credit for not knowing when to quit. Center Walker Kessler at Auburn took 50 three-point attempts and shot only 20%.
Starting his sophomore season, the table couldn’t have been set any better for Timme to have a big year. After the first seven games of the season, Corey Kispert was averaging 23 points per game and shooting a blistering 52% from deep. Jalen Suggs and Andrew Nembhard were two of the best passers in college basketball while Joel Ayayi, he of the 10-assist triple double, was also great at dishing dimes. Opposing defenses concentrated on stopping Kispert and Ayayi on the perimeter and Suggs from slashing to the goal. Timme was the recipient of several eye-popping passes and seldom got double-teamed.
Not this past season, especially after the Texas game. Timme was almost always double or triple teamed every time he touched the ball. The team’s early season struggles from deep magnified the defensive pressure on Timme. I can’t remember which team (someone help me out, I’m old) but they actually played a box and one defense putting four players around the key. When Drew couldn’t operate in the post, he had to get his points through guile and toughness. Opponents may have been larger and more athletic but rarely did any equal Timme’s effort.
In the tight games when his offense was needed, he found ways to put points on the board even when he wasn’t at his best. He got 23 points and 10 rebounds against Alabama battling 7-foot Charles Bediako who had six blocks in the game. He shot 45% against San Francisco dropping another 23 against Yauhen Massalski who seemed to have his number defensively. Finally, he only shot 47% in the season ending loss against Arkansas but still scored a game high 25 points.
Lastly, one only must look at the Memphis post-game interview to see Timme, the vocal extrovert, was the team’s undisputed leader. It almost surpassed his incredible second half performance. He could be seen on the court barking instructions or correcting his front court mates when they were out of position. Never vindictively or belittling, he did so as an on-court coach determined to make an improvement.
During time-outs, he could always be seen with an arm around a teammate walking to, from and during a huddle. No one seemed to have more fun during the pre or post games, high fiving teammates, interacting with fans or hugging Mark Few. He has a blast during the games, constantly jawing equally with teammates and opponents. When on the bench, no one cheered louder or was genuinely enthusiastic when the Red (scout) team players made a basket or a good play.
Should Drew not return next year, which looks pretty likely, he’ll go down as one of the most talented, best loved and truly unique players in the program’s history. A guy in Drew’s position could be forgiven, or at least it would be understandable, if he put himself ahead of the team at times. It never happened. Drew was the consummate teammate, a great example for others and above all a warrior.
Vaya con Dios Mr. Timme, if you don’t return, no, I won’t be surprised if you make it in the NBA.