Introductions won’t be necessary when Gonzaga’s Gary Bell Jr. and Washington State’s DaVonté Lacy meet up tonight at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Both are strong junior guards who lead their respective teams in scoring. Both can get white-hot from beyond the arc. Both could probably pencil out a spot-on, detailed scouting report of the other, but they’ll leave that up to the coaching staffs when No. 13 Gonzaga (3-0) entertains the Cougars (2-0).
“He played for Rotary, which is a Seattle-based (AAU) team, and I’m from Tacoma,” Lacy said. “I don’t know if you know but Tacoma and Seattle aren’t the best at getting along. But over time as we got older in high school and were on all-star teams together and stayed in hotel rooms together, I just got to know him better and we became friends.
“I always want to go watch him play but our schedules conflict. He’s a good guy and I’m glad he’s my friend but at 6 o’clock (tonight) we don’t have no friends.”
Gonzaga and WSU are separated by about 80 miles. When Bell attended Kentridge High in Kent and Lacy was at Curtis High near Tacoma, the two were roughly 30 miles apart.
“We’ve been playing each other since fifth grade,” Bell said. “Our AAU teams were always rival teams, best in our regions. When we played them it was always a big game. Now he’s playing for Washington State so it’s another big game. We kind of have a little rivalry going on.”
The Bulldogs have won two straight against WSU with Bell and Lacy playing key roles. Kevin Pangos’ short bank shot in the closing seconds handed Gonzaga a 71-69 win last year in Pullman. Lacy made four 3-pointers and scored 22 points while Bell had 14 points and hit three 3s. Two years ago, Bell had 14 points and Lacy scored 11 in 14 minutes as Gonzaga won 89-81 behind Pangos’ nine 3-pointers.
“He’s always been aggressive looking for his shot,” said the 6-foot-2 Bell, who is averaging 17.3 points and connecting on 62 percent of his 3-point attempts. “He can definitely shoot the 3 and going to the basket he’s strong. We have to get ready for him.”
In high school, Bell and Lacy paired up for the Northwest Shootout pitting Washington all-stars versus their Oregon counterparts. They roomed together, spending hours talking and telling stories each night.
“Those are the times you don’t forget,” said the 6-4 Lacy, who is averaging 24.5 points. “It’s one of those friendships that’s never going to die because of how we connected and the way we connected. It’s one of those basketball friendships.”
Lacy poured in 32 points and earned MVP honors and Bell scored 27 as Washington beat Oregon at the University of Portland’s Chiles Center. They were teammates for another Washington-vs.-Oregon all-star contest prior to their senior years.
“We played really well together, just fed off each other and it felt good to be out there playing with someone of that caliber every day,” Lacy said. “It was fun. I don’t know if it meant anything to him but I got the MVP because I scored that last point.”
They won’t have to look far to find each other tonight.
“I know DaVonté will be in the game a lot and so will Gary,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “I’m assuming they’ll be going head-to-head quite a bit, just like last year.”