Mark Few certainly has a type. While Braden Huff is the only freshman on the 2022-23 edition of the Gonzaga Bulldogs and has yet to play a competitive minute of basketball in a Gonzaga uniform, there’s a familiar quality about him.
Perhaps it’s the 6’10” frame with the skillset to protect the rim defensively while stretching the floor and playing on the perimeter on offense—the modern big man archetype that has been a staple of Gonzaga’s rosters for essentially the last two decades (before it was cool to have one). Or, perhaps, it’s the competitive but good-natured personality that is such a core trait of every Zag that it’s practically woven into the DNA of the program. Huff and Gonzaga is a union that makes so much sense that any other outcome would have been illogical.
Somewhat of a late bloomer, Huff was coming off the bench and playing guard during his freshman year of high school before sprouting five inches taller. When his game and body developed, he caught Gonzaga’s eye even though it took the recruiting services and other high major programs a little longer to see what the staff already knew—the kid could play.
Huff picked up a scholarship offer from Gonzaga in August 2021 while he was still outside the consensus Top 100 of recruits in his class and committed the following month. Unsurprisingly, when he committed, Huff cited the program’s track record with developing and utilizing talents such as Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Wiltjer (the clinic keeps on giving).
Only a few months later, Huff secured his high school’s first state championship in basketball and was named the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year and “Mr. Illinois” as the top high school basketball player in a state that produces no shortage of hoopers and Division I basketball players. A quick look down the list of prior Mr. Illinois award winners provides proper context for the significance of that achievement. Huff’s performances finally saw him ascend into the Top 100 of 247Sports 2022 rankings (No. 90)—he was already turning into the player the coaching staff envisioned the prior summer.
Huff arrives in Spokane under no pressure to produce immediately and will have time to develop at his own pace while learning from those ahead of him. Drew Timme’s return paired with the arrival of Efton Reid and the complementary skillsets of Anton Watson and Ben Gregg mean there are likely very few minutes available in the frontcourt this season. But, as we have seen over and over again, that time is not wasted by this staff. Even though he’s unlikely to be playing much this season, this is the time when Huff can lay the groundwork to be the next Gonzaga star.