Simon Fraser To Give Men's Basketball An Exhibition Test

            SPOKANE, Wash. - Last year was a special season for Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball team.

            The breakout season of Kelly Olynyk, the steady play of Elias Harris, a 32-3 record as the Bulldogs hit the 30-win plateau for the first time, the program’s first No. 1 national ranking and the inaugural No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament, and a 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance highlighted Gonzaga’s magical 2013 campaign.

            But Olynyk left following his junior season for the NBA. Harris also now resides in the NBA after signing a free agent contract following his senior season.

            And the Bulldogs, who finished No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll of 2013, aren’t at the top of the heap this season.

            But all is not lost for head coach Mark Few, who gets his first look at the Bulldogs against outside competition Friday when Simon Fraser University visits the McCarthey Athletic Center for a 6 p.m. exhibition. It will be the lone exhibition for the Bulldogs this season.

            “They are working hard. We have some veteran guys that know a lot of stuff who we are trying to pace a little and not beat up too bad in the early season. Then we’re trying to bring in those transfers and freshmen to get them up to speed,” Few said. “I think the best thing is to play against somebody else. You can kind of start seeing how the minutes need to be divided, how the guys can handle lengthier runs than they’ve had in the past and then to see what other teams are going to do against us.”

            With a veteran backcourt and higher expectations for a couple of big men, the Zags again figure to be a thorn in the side of the opposition.

            Unlike last season when Gonzaga was an inside-out team, this year’s version will more than likely be an outside-in team, at least early in the season.

            The backcourt starts with junior Kevin Pangos. He’s the only Zag to start all 35 games a year ago and is the top returning scorer from a year ago at 11.9 ppg. He went 78-187 for 41.7 percent from 3-point range and was second on the team in assists with 3.3/game last year.

            His backcourt mate is Gary Bell Jr. who averaged 9.0 ppg while going 56-143 for 39.2 percent from long range. David Stockton continued his role as a valuable sixth man, appearing in all 35 games with one start a year ago and leading the team in assists with 3.4/game. Drew Barham saw increased playing time the second half of the season and became a long-range threat, going 24-for-54 from 3-point range for 44.4 percent. Kyle Dranginis is another 3-point threat off the bench, pouring in a season-high 30 points in a game last season.

            “The three veteran guys are going to play a lot. They’ve been in a lot of big games and played together. They compete against each other really well, push each other,” Few said of the veteran backcourt.

            But don’t count out Gonzaga’s big men.

            Sam Dower Jr. returns for his senior season after spending time behind current Los Angeles Laker Rob Sacre his first three seasons at Gonzaga – one of them a redshirt year – and backing up Olynyk and Harris a year ago. He averaged 6.9 ppg last year and, along with Pangos, is the top returning rebounder at 2.7 rpg.

            Sophomore Przemek Karnowski, at 7-1, 296 pounds, is expected to show improvement over his 5.4 ppg and 2.6 rpg of a year ago and be a major force down low.

            Inside depth will be a concern early as the Bulldogs look for 7-1, 290-pound freshmen Ryan Edwards and 6-9, 203-pound freshman Luke Meikle to develop.

            Transfer Gerard Coleman, a 6-4 junior from Providence College, who sat out last year under NCAA transfer rules, is looked to give Gonzaga depth on the wing. Another transfer, Angel Nunez, a 6-8 sophomore from the University of Louisville, won’t be eligible until the end of the first semester as a mid-year transfer last year.

            Simon Fraser became the first non-American university allowed to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Clan becoming a NCAA Division II school Sept. 1, 2012. SFU became the first non-American school to compete in the NCAA post season when the men’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four last fall after winning the Great Northern Athletic Conference.

            .SFU’s men’s basketball team went 6-20 overall last year, 1-17 in the GNAC. Senior forward David Gebru was named to the All-GNAC preseason team. He averaged 17.3 ppg last season and scored 34 points in a game against Western Washington University.

            James Blake is the head coach for SFU in his fifth season.


 

 

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