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Newcomers focus at Gonzaga’s first practice

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 at which 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.”

Bell, a standout at Kentridge who was named Mr. Basketball by the Washington State Coaches Association last season, lost to Sarbaugh and Gonzaga Prep at the State 4A tournament. G-Prep went on to capture the state title.

“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.