Zags expand options at the ‘3’ position

Mike Hart (left) and Drew Barham warm up during practice. The two role players have recently been mixed into Gonzaga’s rotation. (Dan Pelle)

It’s been a month since Gonzaga held off visiting Saint Mary’s 83-78 and here’s how things can change in that period of time:

Two Bulldogs who didn’t see the court in the first game figure to play a larger role when the WCC men’s basketball rivals collide Thursday in Moraga, Calif. Drew Barham and Kyle Dranginis have seen a steady bump in their playing time the last few weeks at the “3” position.

“I think they’ll both definitely play,” coach Mark Few said. “Saint Mary’s likes to play off David (Stockton), Mike (Hart) and Guy (Landry Edi). We’ll see if they choose to play off those guys.”

The Bulldogs have used a variety of options at the “3.” Edi started 13 games, but his playing time has dwindled since the Oklahoma State game. Hart has made 10 starts and been a solid rebounder and defender. He’s committed just four turnovers in 380 minutes.

Barham and Dranginis both have started one game. They’ve provided an offensive boost of late.

“I’ve been in here working, getting shots up and staying prepared so when people go zone or they help off the “3” or double our bigs, I’ll be able to come in and give the team a boost,” said Barham, who has hit 9 of 14 3-pointers in Gonzaga’s last five games.

Few went with Barham as the starter for Pepperdine because the Waves tend to play zone and sag off the “3.” Few started Hart against Loyola Marymount because he anticipated a physical contest that was “going to be about rebounding and getting in the gaps and playing defense.”

Dranginis has played double-figure minutes in four of the last five games. He’s averaging 5.6 points during that stretch.

“We find out (who is starting) usually the day of the game or the day before,” said Hart, who had six rebounds against LMU. “It doesn’t matter to any of us. We’re all happy contributing any way we can.”

Hart has demonstrated he can start or come off the bench and provide quality minutes.

“It just shows you the quality of his character,” Few said. “He just wants us to win.”

Olynyk keeps focus

Kelly Olynyk is showing up on more mock draft boards, but the junior forward said now isn’t the time to be thinking about the NBA.

“We’re too successful as a team to put that in front of anything,” said Olynyk, who has made 65.2 percent of his shots and is averag- ing 17.7 points and 6.8 rebounds. “It’s definitely an after-the-season thing. I’m focused on how far we can take this as a team.”

Olynyk has already earned his accounting degree.

“I started my Master’s this semester and right now we have it mapped out where I’ll finish it by the end of next year if I choose to do so,” he said.

Gonzaga’s coaching staff traditionally assists players pondering an early exit by compiling information from an NBA advisory committee and other league sources.

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