Men's Basketball Opens Exhibition Season

Nov. 2, 2001

SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University's men's basketball team will get its first test against outside competition Saturday when the Bulldogs host Brewster Packing in a 7 p.m. exhibition in The Kennel.

Tickets for the contest still remain and will be on sale Saturday from noon until game time either in person on the third floor of the Martin Centre or by calling (509) 323-4202.

As for the Bulldogs, head coach Mark Few said it will be good to go against somebody other than themselves.

"I think we need to make a step up in every facet of the game. The opportunity to all be on the same team will be nice instead of banging around against each other in practice and scrimmage. We need to step up the team concept, and then everything else from offensive execution to defensive intensity to teamwork," Few said.

The third-year head coach, one of only two coaches to guide their teams to back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances in their first two seasons since the bracket was expanded to 64 teams, said he and his staff are starting to get an idea of where players stand.

"We've had a lot of looks in practice and a couple of scrimmages, so we're beginning to formulate some pretty solid opinions on them," Few said of the team. "I think we'll be very deep. On any given night we'll have different contributions from a lot of different guys."

Few said it's possible the Bulldogs could use 10 players night in and night out.

The Bulldogs will be a little short-handed Saturday. Guard Blake Stepp will be held out while he continues to his right knee from spring surgery. He had a procedure called a micro-fracture to stimulate the healing process in the knee to replace a deteriorating bone. While there is no way to know if the surgery was successful without actually going back into the knee to see, everyone is optimistic the bone has healed.

But caution has been the rule during fall conditioning and practice.

"We're doing what the training room and doctors tell us to do on Blake," few said. "We're taking a slow, long-haul approach to it and being as patient as we can."

The Bulldogs will have Zach Gourde available for duty Saturday. He was held out of contact earlier in the week with a sore shoulder, but has been cleared for full activity.

Gonzaga will also be without senior Alex Hernandez who is being held out of Saturday's exhibition because of "academic indifference." While eligible under NCAA standards, Few has not been pleased with Hernandez's academic progress and will not play him Saturday.

One newcomer who has made great strides is Ronny Turiaf of Le Robert, Martinique. The 6-8, 229-pound forward has made the most progress of the newcomers, according to Few.

"Ronny has probably been the best learner we've ever had in terms of picking things up and improving from practice to practice. He's been a very, very pleasant surprise in how much he can assimilate and put into his game, learn and move on to get better," Few said.

He said some of the other new players in the program are still in the learning curve. But Few said a lot of that is because of the Bulldogs system.

"Our system is real tough on new guys. We throw a lot of sets and a lot of conceptual things at young players," Few said. "For the most part, a lot of them have struggled at various times this fall."

The game will also give Few and his staff a chance to look at the veterans, led by point guard Dan Dickau. The "quarterback" averaged 18.9 ppg last season, despite missing nine contests with a broken finger. He was a member of USA Basketball's World University Games squad that captured a bronze medal in Beijing last August.

Gonzaga returns nine letter winners from a year ago, including starters Dickau, Stepp and Gourde.

"We haven't formulated our starting lineup or our rotation yet," Few said.

The exhibition contest will be the first of two for the Bulldogs, with the other Thursday at home against Delta Jammers out of California. Gonzaga is preparing for the Nov. 16 season opener at the University of Illinois. But Few said the Bulldogs haven't started to work on Illinois, yet.

"We have a lot to work to do on Gonzaga," he said. "I know that's not taking anything away from Illinois. They are a great team, as good as there is in college basketball this year. But we have to worry about ourselves first."



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