The Gonzaga Bulldogs are coming off a 29-4 season. They reached the Sweet 16, finally losing to NCAA-finalist UCLA, which rallied from nine down in the final 3 minutes, 26 seconds to win, 73-71. They return seven players who contributed significant minutes to their success, including a 14-0 record in the West Coast Conference.
And yet the biggest questions as they opened 2006-07 practice Friday night at McCarthey Athletic Center revolved around a player – or two – who is no longer there: Adam Morrison. And to a slightly lesser degree, J.P. Batista.
"When you have a guy like Adam, and you have a guy like J.P., that's hard to replace," said senior center Sean Mallon, one of three returning starters, "and you're not going to replace them with one guy or two guys. It's going to be all of us.
"That's kind of an advantage in some ways, but it's going to be hard. It's going to take time, but I think we're going to get there."
And that's what it's going to take to replace a consensus All-American, the Chevrolet Player of the Year, the nation's leading scorer and the third player taken in the NBA draft, all of which happened to Morrison last year. It's going to take a team effort.