December 20, 2013 in Sports

Nunez adds to Gonzaga’s inside depth

By The Spokesman-Review

(Full-size photo)

Follow Gonzaga Bulldogs beat writer Jim Meehan on Twitter @srjimm

Angel Nunez has been at Gonzaga for nearly a year following his transfer from Louisville.

For the better part of that year, coach Mark Few has been telling Nunez the same thing.

“He is athletic and can do some things, getting a rebound or blocking a shot,” Few said of Nunez, who is eligible for Saturday’s game against Kansas State in Wichita, Kan. “Now, whether that manifests itself in games will be the big (question). I’ve been telling him for a year, if he can bring that he’s going to play because it’s what we don’t have.

“If it’s jump shots and other stuff, we have plenty of guys that can do that.”

The addition of the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Nunez brings Gonzaga’s thin frontcourt to full strength. Sam Dower Jr. and Przemek Karnowski are the starters, Kyle Dranginis and Drew Barham have been the primary options off the bench at “4.” Freshman forward Luke Meikle has played just 41 minutes and freshman center Ryan Edwards, who missed the first seven games after having his tonsils removed, has appeared in one game.

Where does Nunez fit into the mix? He gives Gonzaga a bigger option at “4” compared to the 6-7 Barham and 6-5 Dranginis. If Nunez can provide quality minutes at “4,” Barham and Dranginis could see additional time at the “3,” their more natural position, and Dower and Karnowski could be afforded more opportunities to rest.

Nunez has the frame to match up better with opposing “4s,” such as South Alabama’s Augustine Rubit, who scored 35 points against GU on Saturday, though defense isn’t considered his specialty.

Nunez hasn’t played in an official game since Feb. 29, 2012, a scoreless 4-minute stint against South Florida. He appeared in exhibition games last season before suffering a concussion that Louisville’s trainer called the worst he’d seen. His recovery continued at Gonzaga, where he had to wait before being cleared to practice.

Nunez has at least 1½ years of eligibility, but GU officials are hopeful he’ll be granted a waiver for an additional season since he didn’t play in an official game as a sophomore at Louisville.

He spent most of the last few months practicing with Gonzaga’s scout team consisting of walk-ons, redshirts and transfers.

“It gives us an extra five fouls. It really ups our athleticism and makes us look a little better in the airport,” point guard David Stockton said of Nunez. “You look at him and see the length and size and he’s just an impressive figure. When that translates on the court it’s pretty nice.”

Nunez has no regrets about leaving a Louisville program that went to the 2012 Final Four and won it all last season. The New York native said he was frustrated with limited playing time, the lengthy recovery from his concussion and he just wasn’t happy.

“I feel like I came to a special place and now it’s time to rewrite history here, try to make a run at Gonzaga,” he said.

Nunez said he brings “a versatile player that can do a lot of different things from the ‘4.’ Block shots, just make simple plays, which is what the coaches have emphasized.”

He said he was stubborn initially about playing “4” instead of “3,” but “I see a lot of other guys at other schools doing it. Wesley Johnson played ‘4’ for Syracuse. Jabari Parker has played center at Duke.”

Nunez is eager for his long stretch on the sidelines to end.

“I just can’t wait to hear them say ‘Angel’ and me running to the (scorer’s) table,” Nunez said. “That’s when I’ll know (how it feels), once that happens.”

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