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An ode to Drew Timme, certified bucket getter

We won’t see someone quite like Gonzaga’s newly crowned all-time scoring leader in perhaps forever.

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NCAA Basketball: Chicago State at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Back on November 14, 2018, the Gonzaga Bulldogs landed the commitment of the No. 41 player in the Class of 2019, beating out the likes of Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M, Illinois, and 40 other schools. The subhead I quickly typed out for the article was “The Zags just pulled in the dude.”

All you had to do to understand the hype was watch any one of his high school mix tapes, which instead of being filled with posturizing dunks, blocks, crossovers, and such, was mixed with exactly the sort of moves we see Timme employ today—a rinse cycle beginning from the three-point line that left his defenders spinning in circles and two more points on the board.

Pretty much instantaneously, Timme proved the hype in his freshman year. Despite playing behind a ball-devouring Filip Petrusev, against a slate of November cupcakes plus Texas A&M, Timme scored in double-digits in six of his first seven games of college.

We weren’t talking about Timme breaking Frank Burgess’ all-time scoring record at Gonzaga back then, but perhaps we should’ve thought about it a little bit. Granted, his 82 total points through his first seven games left him 2,114 behind Burgess. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

On Dec. 21, 2020, in the midst of what would be the weirdest year of basketball ever, the Zags were playing their first home game of the COVID season in a back-to-back matchup against Northwestern State. One would think that the most important part of the Drew Timme story from his sophomore season would be opening up the season with 25 points against Kansas and following it up with 28 against Auburn. Instead, it was this:

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern State at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

And with it, the true power and potential of NIL began to unlock. In the midst of what would eventually be one of the greatest Gonzaga seasons in history, and perhaps one of the best teams in college basketball to not win the national title, Timme, a consensus second-team All-American, took over for the Zags averaging 19 points per game and looking like a caricature of a used car salesman.

Things turned even more drastic when he showed up for the first round NCAA Tournament game against Norfolk State rocking a facial hair style stereotypically seen on poster boards of people you are supposed to avoid in life. The legend had been born throughout the regular season but real impact was made on the national stage. The stache, a celebration of the lighter side of basketball throughout the entire year, was officially born.

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Timme hits the court, you know two things: 1) He is ultra-competitive (e.g. constant trash-talking), and 2) He is having more fun than the rest of us while playing (e.g. making conversation instead of trash talking, celebrations, overall seeming aloof on every dead ball time, etc.).

In a world that seemingly gets more dead serious at every single opportunity, watching a player like Drew Timme take it seriously, but also take it for what it is worth—basketball, was a much needed reprieve. We can never have enough Drew Timmes in the world.

On March 19, 2022, the No. 1 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs entered halftime trailing the No. 9 Memphis Tigers by 10. It was an important game for Timme and the perfect highlight of his career. For a guy whose game settles into an overall thankful reliability of success, Timme has, more often than not, stepped up to the stage when the lights shine brightest.

Against Memphis, he emphasized that skill, scoring 11-straight points out of halftime to bring the Zags within three. Gonzaga would narrowly survive the upset bid, and Timme, in the heat of the moment, gave what is arguably the greatest immediate post NCAA Tournament game interview of all time.

The interview is perfect for a multitude of reasons. Immediate post-game interviews following high-level games with teenage to early 20s responders is a bit of a fool’s errand in terms of quotables—and Timme is a risky live mic opportunity. The man has a proficiency for swearing. The resulting answer is an absolutely human response. An attempt at knowing the emotional moment requires proper word choice, and hilariously making it even more obvious as a result.

I’ve never met Drew Timme. But sometimes in watching how he presents himself, so utterly normal, I feel like I’ve already known him for years. For a close-knit and small college community like Gonzaga, that is an important trait we don’t think about too often.

Drew Timme has played 130 games over his college career. He has scored less than 10 points only 23 times, and 17 of those games came in his freshman season. For someone who owns a career eFG% of 62.5, it is easy to take for granted just how automatic Timme is on offense.

Still, besting the Burgess record was not guaranteed at the start of this season. Timme has proven to be a remarkably stout basketball player, rarely missing time to injuries or anything else. Let’s also posit, for example, that Timme averages 18 points per game instead of his 21. Right now, he’d be sitting approximately 90 points short with just the NCAA Tournament to make the difference—not a guarantee.

Since the 2010-11 season, There have been 37 games in which a Zag scores 30 or more points. Timme accounts for nine of those games, the most out of anyone. He is the greatest pure scorer the Zags have ever seen since Adam Morrison, and he has pretty much done it completely without a legitimate three-point shot. Just spinning, ducking, leaning, pivoting, and dancing his way to victory, time and time again.

Those two words might be the most significant uttered in the evolution and execution of NIL. College basketball is littered with the likes of Drew Timme, phenomenally skilled basketball players that the NBA does not have room for. As the NCAA dragged its feet longer and longer on some sort of equitable distribution of name, image, and likeness, every fanbase was seeing players depart “early.” If the NBA wasn’t an option, the G League or international ball paid much more than the NCAA’s $0.00. As much as some people wanted to, I always found it hard to blame a player for going out and getting what is theirs, a point Timme hit perfectly on the head in an interview with John Fanta to start the year:

“I’m not in this position, but sometimes people have had to leave college basketball just to go make any sort of money for their families to make ends meet. NIL gives people a chance to stay in college, get better and develop while making money and earning a degree. Sometimes we’ve seen situations where people leave early, and what if they come back for one more year? What could it do for them? NIL opens up more doors in college sports.”

Another added benefit, players like Timme demonstrating that there is financial value in returning to college hoops: a win-win in my book. Timme gets to make some money and buy all of his teammates Beats and college basketball gets to watch one of the most skilled big men play hoops for another year.

There are a lot of ideas of what it means to be a Zag in people’s minds, and that is why thinking about the Mt. Rushmore of Zags is so difficult. We’ve seen big men with fundamentals that make you drool (Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis). We’ve seen prolific scorers who cannot be stopped (Kyle WIitjer, Adam Morrison). We’ve seen personalities larger than life (Robert Sacre).

What makes Drew Timme one of the most, if not the most, unique Zag is that he is all of those things combined into one person. Down the line, we as fans will witness another solid big man. We will witness another prolific scorer. We will witness another big personality. I do not think that we will ever witness that packaged together into a player like Drew Timme. For the past four years, it has been bliss to watch. So let’s enjoy the rest of it while we can.

Celebrate this moment and many others in Gonzaga history with swag from BreakingT.