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Rui Hachimura stepping up in a big way for Gonzaga early on

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 1, 2017, 6:38 p.m.

Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura, left, posts up against Texas forward Jericho Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. (Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura, left, posts up against Texas forward Jericho Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. (Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

Make way – here comes Rui Hachimura.

The Gonzaga forward didn’t have a say in the majority of Gonzaga’s wins last season, but this year, the sophomore has stepped into a significant supporting role inside for the Zags. Hachimura has been racking up stats in Gonzaga’s first seven games that are topping the West Coast Conference.

This year, the Bulldogs have looked to the big man to step up behind starting forwards Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie. Ahead of Friday’s showing against Creighton, he was averaging 19.4 minutes off the bench, a substantial increase from last year’s 4.6 minutes in 28 games.

Hachimura has been most successful at the line. He tops the conference in free-throw percentage, hitting 14 of 15 this season (93.3 percent), including his last 13.

He’s also one of the WCC’s most successful shooters from the field this season. He is ranked 10th in the conference in field-goal percentage at 54.9 (28 of 51).

He sits just one spot behind Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams, who has hit 56.2 percent from the field (41 of 73), and four spots behind Gonzaga center Killian Tillie, who ranks sixth in the WCC at 60 percent (30 of 50).

Hachimura is also 13th in the conference in rebounds per game (5.4) and 28th in points per game (10.6).

Hachimura has collected 38 points off the bench between the last two games, including a season-high 20 in Gonzaga’s overtime win over Texas last Sunday. The sophomore also tied a season high of nine boards against the Longhorns.