Men's Basketball Practice Officially Underway
SPOKANE, Wash. - Men's basketball practice officially opened across the country Friday, and it was no different at Gonzaga University as 14th-year head coach Mark Few welcomed the latest squad of Bulldogs.
Few said it was finally good to officially get started, even though NCAA rules allow for limited practice in the summer and fall.
"These guys have been working really hard and chomping at the bit to get going. It will be nice to get some regularity to practice and routine," Few said.
Coming off a 26-7 season that saw the Bulldogs advance to a 14th straight NCAA Tournament, Few has four starters and a total of eight letterwinners returning.
The four returning starts include the tandem guards of Kevin Pangos (13.6 ppg and 3.4 apg) and Gary Bell, Jr. (10.4 ppg) who had outstanding freshmen campaigns for the Bulldogs; senior guard Mike Hart (3.0 rpg), and senior forward Elias Harris (13.1 ppg and 8.5 rpg).
Other returning letterwinners are junior center/forward Sam Dower (7.6 ppg), senior guard Guy Landry Edi (5.5 ppg), junior guard David Stockton (2.4 apg) and junior forward Kelly Olynyk who redshirted last season. Redshirt freshman Kyle Dranginis also returns to the fold.
Add to that a blend of newcomers.
Drew Barham, a transfer from the University of Memphis who is enrolled in graduate school at Gonzaga, has two years of eligibility remaining. He is immediately eligible because he has already graduated and was given his release by Memphis. The 6-7, 195-pound junior is a native of Memphis. Przemek Karnowksi, a 7-1, 305-pound freshman center, got in his first official practice Friday. He's playing with a heavily wrapped left hand after suffering a bruise on the top of the hand but is expected to get plenty of minutes. Freshman walk-on Rem Bakamus, a 6-0, 150-pound guard, joins the Bulldogs from Mark Morris High in Longview, Wash., and Gerard Coleman, a 6-3, 180-pound junior guard has transferred from Providence College and will have to sit out per NCAA transfer rules.
"We have great depth this year, knock on wood that we stay healthy," Few said. "We have a lot bounce, a lot of guys that can score a bunch of different ways and are pretty skilled. Those would be the positives. The chemistry is really good. We're always blessed with that at GU, but this group is very close. They do a great job of doing things together."
One player the Zags must replace is center Robert Sacre, a West Coast Conference first-team selection a year ago as well as being the conference's Defender of the Year. In addition to his basketball skills, Sacre, drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, brought an outgoing personality to practice and games.
"Those shoes can't be filled by one guy," Few laughed. "It's a big personality void. Kevin (Pangos) as he gets older, Elias (Harris) as he starts to take a little more ownership and Gary (Bell, Jr.) in his own silent way I think will become leaders. I think it will be done more by committee than anything."
With Dower, Harris and Olynyk already in the fold, the Bulldogs added a fourth big into the mix with the acquisition of Karnowski. Few said you can't pass on bigs.
"Big guys are always so hard to find so anytime you get quality big guys it's very important to building your program, just like great guards," Few noted. "But I think we have a nice foursome in our bigs; they are all different, yet all four of them are very good players."
The Bulldogs are building toward their only exhibition game off the season Oct. 27 against Northwest Nazarene University at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The regular-season opener is at home against Southern Utah University Nov. 9.
Fans can get their first glimpse of the Bulldogs next Saturday at Kraziness in the Kennel at 4 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The event is free and open to the public.