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Zags say off-court chemistry vital to success

Fans see Gonzaga’s unity on the court in Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos and Kyle Dranginis, but the team is close outside basketball as well. (Colin Mulvany)

It isn’t easy to illustrate team chemistry, but here goes.

Drew Barham was on Gonzaga’s campus for less than a week when he and sophomore guard Kevin Pangos started working on a trick-shot video.

Guy Landry Edi and Elias Harris went to Cold Stone for ice cream Sunday night, then hung out at a house shared by Sam Dower, Kelly Olynyk and David Stockton.

A few nights ago, Barham and Pangos snap-chatted (ask a teenager) home-made music videos to teammates.

However you want to define team chemistry, it seems the Gonzaga men’s basketball team has plenty of it.

“You can sense it when you come to the gym every day and it’s easy,” senior wing Mike Hart said. “The season can get long and turn into a grind sometimes. This year it’s easy to come in here. It’s not, ‘Another practice to get through.’ It’s, ‘Let’s have some fun, it’s going to be a tough one, but let’s enjoy it and get to work.’”

Pangos thought that the Bulldogs did a few team-building exercises in his freshman year. None were necessary prior to this season.

 “I think chemistry starts off the court and gets translated to the court,” Edi said. “You see we really love each other and really enjoy being around each other, which makes it easier to play hard for each other on the court.”

Pretty fair definition right there.

“When we’re on the road, people are bouncing around from room to room to see what’s up,” Stockton said. “Snap-chat is one way we communicate, part of our little circle. We snap-chat all this funny stuff, who people look like.”

For example? “Jim Carrey right there,” said Stockton, gesturing at Barham, a transfer from Memphis.

“After practice guys would go their separate ways; they did their own thing,” said Barham, emphasizing that he enjoyed his three seasons with the Tigers. “Here everybody goes together and it doesn’t matter who you’re hanging out with.

“I was at Sam and Stocks’ last night, the night before I hung out with Kev, the night before that with Kelly and Kyle (Dranginis). At a lot of places you like each because it’s your teammate, but once you get off the court it’s a little different.”

Barham went through a long stretch with little or no playing time.

“Stocks came up and said, ‘You’re going to get your shot,’” Barham recalled. “The next game he had two or three assists to me and I was back in there. It’s definitely different hearing it from a teammate (than a coach).”

Head coach Mark Few said he’s been fortunate to coach a number of teams with great chemistry.

“I’m hesitant to keep harping about it because I don’t want to take away from our other groups that have been so good, the Nilsons, Floyds, Frahms, Sacres, Pargo’s groups, Steven (Gray), but this one is really special,” Few said. “They really aren’t hung up with who is scoring, who did this or that. There hasn’t been one issue with that all year, which is incredible in college basketball in this day and age.”

Pangos said team chemistry tends to show up when needed the most.

“Definitely on the road trips. Oklahoma State was a big one, Butler, we lost that game but we were right there, Saint Mary’s,” he said. “The other ones people might not notice are the games where there might not be much buzz, like a Loyola Marymount there or here. To get up for those games can be difficult, especially after a great game at Saint Mary’s or somewhere, but everyone motivated each other.

“To be able to do that as a group, you have to be a good team where no one slacks off or drops their level of play.”