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GU players put brains before basketball

Junior forward Kelly Olynyk doesn’t have to raise his hand anymore to receive permission to speak in class. No, it’s not preferential treatment because he’s averaging 18 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Gonzaga men’s basketball team.

Olynyk and teammates Mike Hart and Drew Barham have already earned their degrees. Olynyk and Hart are in Gonzaga’s Master of Business Administration program. Barham, who completed his sports management degree in three years at Memphis, is working on his Master’s in Organizational Leadership.

“There are different people in class, different minds and it’s not all quote ‘kids’,” Olynyk said. “Some people are 60 years old, some have fought in wars. It’s just different to see how other people think and hear other people’s perspectives, how they’ve been brought up and the changes they’ve seen.

“In one of my classes, it’s more of a seminar instead of a lecture. You don’t have to raise your hand to talk. You’re kind of in one big conversation and a lot of the time the students lead the discussion instead of the professor.”

Olynyk was on the WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll last year with a 3.53 GPA. He graduated in December with an accounting degree. He’s taking two classes, including an investments course with Hart, who is on schedule to earn an MBA this spring. Ex-Zag David Pendergraft is in Olynyk’s other class.

Barham, who has worked his way into Gonzaga’s rotation, remembers his dad’s advice when he enrolled at Memphis: Get the most you can out of your education. He had two semesters with 4.0 GPAs and made the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2010 and 2011. He took 18 credits some semesters and utilized summer school to finish his degree.

It wasn’t intentional, but Barham said securing his degree allowed him to transfer to Gonzaga and become eligible immediately if he enrolled in a graduate program not offered at Memphis.

“Just a byproduct,” said Barham, who transferred in hopes of finding more court time than the 296 minutes he played in 49 games in two seasons with Memphis. “It happened that it fell right into transferring and it worked out perfectly.”

Barham said one of his classes requires 15 books. He’s taking two courses online “because in the Master’s program they’re only offered so many days a week and every single time it was offered we had a game.”

He takes a scholarly approach to basketball.

“You have to study (opposing) players, you study NBA players, you study rotations on defense so when you get in the game you don’t mess up,” said Barham, who canceled a visit to Saint Mary’s after verbally committing to Gonzaga. “One thing I’ve been doing is studying Mike (Hart) and that’s helped me a lot.”

Hart, who has gone from walk-on to starter, picked Gonzaga for academic reasons five years ago. Now his classes are at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

“It’s people that are coming in after work, talking about how they manage a company or whatever they do for a living,” said Hart, who has been on scholarship for roughly two of his five years.

Hart has had a busy year.

“I took a full course load in summer, six classes, six in the fall and six this semester,” he said. “It’s kind of weird if you’re doing it how I’m doing it. It’s a little less than a year and half.”

Hart had a 3.63 GPA last season and made the Commissioner’s Honor Roll.

“It’s an ability to pay attention and focus on what people are saying,” Hart said. “You go through film sessions, the scouting report, for a reason. You’re taking it to heart, understanding it and putting in the effort to grasp the concepts.”