Gonzaga’s coaching staff and junior forward Kelly Olynyk discussed the possibility of redshirting numerous times. Then they talked some more.
After careful deliberation, they reached a decision: It’s in Olynyk’s and the program’s best interests that the 7-footer from Canada redshirt.
“It’s always a tough decision when you’re so used to playing and so used to being in a different mindset,” Olynyk said. “The coaches and I have had numerous meetings and I think we made a great decision.”
The decision isn’t set in stone. Gonzaga plans on redshirting Olynyk and true freshmen guards Kyle Dranginis and Chris Sarbaugh, but that could change depending on injuries and other circumstances.
Olynyk averaged roughly 13 minutes each of his first two seasons backing up Elias Harris and Robert Sacre, who both return this season. Add in sophomore Sam Dower, who averaged 16.4 minutes per WCC game, and there aren’t a lot of minutes to go around at the two forward positions.
“It’s really tough (watching), especially during warm-ups and the crowd is going nuts and everyone is going crazy,” Olynyk said. “You feel it and you want to be out there, but I know I’m going to have a chance here. I have to stay positive and keep everyone involved and lift people when they’re down.”
True freshman Ryan Spangler will be the fourth ‘big’. He’s played five minutes in two GU wins.
“It’s hard enough to play four bigs and get them minutes and sometimes the fourth doesn’t get many minutes,” Bulldogs assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “The tough thing is subbing in games and you look down there and know Kelly could help you for however many minutes you need him.”
Olynyk’s goal is to get bigger, stronger and quicker and “make sure I’m as skilled as I can be for the following two years. And I want to work on stuff I’m not doing as well – trying to play inside better, trying to play bigger, trying to rebound better.”
The rotation at wing isn’t as clear-cut. Gonzaga is waiting to hear on its appeal of Guy Landry Edi’s eight-game suspension by the NCAA. Asked if Dranginis’ suiting up versus Washington State on Monday indicated that he’s ‘on call,’ Lloyd said, “I guess you could say that. More than anything we want to keep him mentally engaged and working so he’s ready to go just in case something happens with injuries.”
Dranginis said he’ll use the year to “help me mature, get stronger and quicker. The coaches thought I could help out this year, that’s why they’re still contemplating a little bit, but in the long run I think it’s going to be a great decision. Rob, Sam and (David) Stockton redshirted. It really helps your career.”
Sarbaugh, a Gonzaga Prep product, had offseason knee surgery.
“He’s kind of a cross between (Mike) Hart and Stockton a little bit,” Lloyd said. “He has the feel for the game David has and he does a lot of intangibles that Mike does, but he needs this year to develop technique on his shot because at guard at this level you have to make some shots.”