Gonzaga’s eighth-leading scorer has become one of its most important players.
That’s primarily because sophomore guard Kyle Dranginis ranks second or third on the team in a handful of other statistical categories.
Dranginis showed he could handle a bigger workload when Gary Bell Jr. was sidelined for six games with a broken hand. Dranginis continues to see extended playing time on a healthier Gonzaga roster.
“That’s the beauty of his game,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. You can’t really pinpoint one aspect he does great but he does everything really well. If you watch us when he’s on the floor we’re flowing better, the ball moves better.
“He probably has the best feel for the game of anybody on the team.”
Dranginis has found ways to influence games beyond his modest 6.8 points per game. His scoring average has actually declined in WCC games (6.4), but not his impact. He can play the “2,” “3” or “4.” He’s brought the ball up the court at times, yet the 6-foot-5 Dranginis is second on the team in blocks with 14, one ahead of Sam Dower Jr.
In conference play, Dranginis is second in minutes (30.6), assists (39), blocks (10) and steals (14). Coming off a career-high 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over San Francisco, he’s third in boards at 5.5.
“I think it’s always been part of my game since I was little,” Dranginis said. “I grew up trying to make a play every possession, whether it was scoring a bucket or getting a steal. I like to hustle. I have long arms so if I can get a block … whatever I can do.”
Dranginis, who redshirted as a freshman, played 10.4 minutes per game last season and struggled beyond the 3-point line at 29.4 percent. He’s hit 37.5 this season, and his field-goal and free-throw percentages are slightly better.
“I didn’t play much last year because we were stacked,” he said. “I’ve been able to learn a lot in my redshirt year and last year. I learned to play the right way and when I got in there I was able to bring that to the game.”
Dranginis’ only three points against Santa Clara came via a timely 3-pointer with 12 minutes left. His only assist was on GU’s final play when he fed Dower for a game-winning 3-pointer. After making the pass, Dranginis worked around Santa Clara’s Jared Brownridge into rebounding position on the right side of the lane in case Dower missed.
Dranginis’ dogged pursuit of rebounds led to a collision with teammate Przemek Karnowski on Saturday. Karnowski needed post-game stitches for a cut under his left eye.
“I felt pretty bad,” Dranginis said. “My elbow was pretty sore; I couldn’t even straighten it (Sunday), but it’s all right now. He definitely got the worst end of it.”
Dranginis had four offensive boards against USF, one leading to a Dower three-point play near the end of Gonzaga’s 16-5 run in the second half. He only scored seven points, but two came on a putback with 6:36 left and he made a pair of free throws with 1:03 remaining.
At the defensive end, Dranginis has taken turns on the WCC’s top point guards (Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland and Saint Mary’s Stephen Holt) and some of the tougher “4s” (USF’s Cole Dickerson and Pepperdine’s Stacy Davis).
“That’s where he came in with a little bit of a weakness coming into the year and he’s done a nice job of shoring that up,” Few said. “Because of Gary’s injury, we were forced to put him on the other team’s best player during long stretches and he responded really well.”