Six guys who haven’t played a second for the Gonzaga men’s basketball team were the primary topic of discussion as the Bulldogs held their first official practice Friday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
GU’s highly touted recruiting class – freshmen Gary Bell Jr., Kevin Pangos, Ryan Spangler, Kyle Dranginis and Chris Sarbaugh and JC transfer Guy Landry Edi – went through drills alongside nine returning players who helped the Zags to a 25-win season that ended with a second-round loss to Brigham Young in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
“We have a great recruiting class,” senior center Rob Sacre said. “Everybody works hard and they want to get better. That’s what makes Gonzaga.”
Five of the six newcomers are guards/wings, the positions where Gonzaga has the biggest holes to fill after the exits of Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson and Manny Arop. Spangler is the lone “big,” a 6-foot-8, 232-pounder who adds to Gonzaga’s experienced frontcourt of Sacre, Elias Harris, Sam Dower and Kelly Olynyk.
“They’re very basketball ready, very quick at all the stuff we’ve already introduced and that’s a good sign,” head coach Mark Few said. “It helps that this isn’t our first workout (NCAA rules allow limited individual/team sessions since Sept. 15), so we’ve been able to do a lot of things offensively and defensively that we would have been doing tonight.”
Pangos, a point guard from Ontario, has played on the Nike Hoops Summit World Select team and on Canada’s U-17 and U-19 teams. Now, he’s learning GU’s system.
“My dad is a coach so I’ve been brought up around the game,” Pangos said. “That’s one of my strengths, my IQ, so I think I’ll be fine.”
The freshmen have bonded quickly, Pangos said, which helps with the transition to the college.
“We go everywhere together,” he said. “It’s great to have someone you can talk to and spend time with so you’re not learning the ropes on your own.”
Bell, a standout at Kentridge High who was named Mr. Basketball by the Washington State Coaches Association last season, lost to Sarbaugh and Gonzaga Prep at the 4A state tournament. The Bullpups went on to capture the state title.
“He’ll crack a joke here and there,” Bell said, “but it’s all behind us now.”
“I brought my state championship ring to the dorms to make sure he remembers it,” Sarbaugh joked, “but no, we have great respect for each other. He’s unbelievable.”
Bell and Pangos figure to be in the rotation immediately.
“The college game is a guard’s game and the quicker (the freshmen guards) get up to speed, the better we’ll be because of it,” Few said. “Hopefully the depth and experience and wisdom our bigs have gained over the years can somewhat help them with the process.”
Everybody appeared to be at full strength, although several are coming back from health issues. Sophomore wing Mathis Mönninghoff suffered broken ribs after returning to campus from playing on Germany’s U-19 squad, but he said he’s fine. Landry Edi sprained his MCL playing for Ivory Coast this summer. He had his knee wrapped and participated in drills. Sarbaugh had knee surgery in July, but he said he’s progressing on schedule.
Carter said the wrist he injured during the NCAA Tournament “stayed with me for a while, brought me a lot of pain. I got a shot about a month ago and it’s been feeling great. I’m 100 percent and ready to go.”
Harris making progress
Few answered swiftly when asked if anybody stood out following off-season workouts.
“Elias (Harris) was around every day,” Few said. “He’s in better shape, his body is much better, his game is better. He’s definitely more engaged as opposed to always having to share him with (Germany’s) national team, which is fine but I think it’s tough on him when he’s coming and going from team to team.”