MBB Opens with Exhibition Against Thompson Rivers

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SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team will open the 2014-15 season with an exhibition game against Thompson Rivers University on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Head coach Mark Few returns three starters and seven letterwinners from a 29-win season that included a 16th-straight NCAA Tournament berth and WCC regular season and tournament titles. One of the most highly-touted recruiting classes in program history, coupled with experienced top-line transfers, has the 2014-15 squad looking like one of the deepest lineups Zag fans have ever seen.

Returning experience

Back is the senior duo of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., and third-year big man Przemek Karnowski. Pangos, an ironman, has started 103 of 104 games in his career, only sitting at the start of the first game of his freshman season. He played in that game off the bench and has been in the lineup ever since. Last season, he battled nagging injuries, but managed 14.4 points per game and 41 percent from behind the three-point line. Bell Jr. returns 11.0 points per game and comes in healthy after battling injuries last year that included a broken hand and knee pain that was cleared up with offseason surgery. Karnowski, meanwhile, has continued to hone his game after averaging 10.4 points and team-leading totals of 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 2013-14.

But that’s not where the experience ends. Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer will be back on the court after sitting out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Wiltjer, a redshirt junior, played a pivotal role on a national-championship squad at Kentucky, being named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year. In addition, the Zags will also deploy upperclassmen transfers Byron Wesley and Eric McClellan this season. Wesley, the leading scorer as a junior at USC last season, averaged 17.8 points per game and comes to Gonzaga immediately eligible after finishing his undergrad degree prior to transferring. McClellan, who transferred to Gonzaga midseason last year from Vanderbilt, will be eligible as a redshirt junior on Jan. 6, after satisfying NCAA transfer rules. In 12 games last year for the Commodores, McClellan put up 14.3 points per game to lead the team.

The Zags also return 2013-14 contributors Angel Nunez, Kyle Dranginis and Ryan Edwards. Nunez, a senior, is in his second season in a GU uniform after transferring from Louisville. He saw action in 24 games a year ago, averaging 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Dranginis a do-it-all junior combo guard, played in all 36 games and was pressed into the starting lineup when Bell went down. He averaged 6.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Edwards, a sophomore, saw limited action in 17 games, but 12 field goals on the year and shot .824 (14-17) from the free-throw line.

Freshmen Talent

Led by top-100 recruit Josh Perkins from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep and Domantas Sabonis, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, the GU freshman class brings in some serious talent. Silas Melson and Bryan Alberts round the class into one of the most highly-touted in program history.

Perkins, originally from Denver, Colo., helped Huntington Prep reach a No. 3 national high school ranking last season on the way to a 29-5 record. Sabonis, one of the youngest ever to play in some of the top leagues in Spain, hails from Lithuania. He brings in international experience from playing with his native country in FIBA U-18 and U-16 tournaments where he averaged better than a double-double.

Melson, an Oregon state player of the year in the 5A classification, comes in after averaging 24.3 points per game as a senior on the way to a second consecutive state championship. And Alberts, a 6-5 combo guard, averaged double digits throughout his final three years of high school and helped his team to the Division V state title in California as a sophomore.


 

 

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