Gonzaga has gone north of the border for another men’s basketball recruit.
Kelly Olynyk, a versatile 6-foot-10, 205-pound Canadian, has verbally committed to the Bulldogs. Olynyk joins friend and fellow Canadian Mangisto Arop, a 6-5 guard; Elias Harris, a 6-7 forward from Speyer, Germany; and 6-9 forward Sam Dower, from Osseo, Minn., in Gonzaga’s 2009 class. GU’s current roster includes sophomore center Robert Sacre, of North Vancouver, B.C.
“I really like the program there and how coach Mark Few has taken that program to the next level,” Olynyk said in a telephone interview. “I think I can contribute and make a difference and it’s also close to home for my family and friends to come.”
Olynyk is just past the midpoint of his senior year at South Kamloops Secondary School in Kamloops, B.C. His father, Ken, who is the athletic director at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, said his son averages about 35 points and 13 rebounds on a 20-1 team.
Olynyk was 6-4 as a sophomore but has experienced three-inch growth spurts the last two years. He played point guard as a youngster and projects as a “3” or “4” at Gonzaga, according to his father. “He’s definitely more of a perimeter player than a post player.”
After Olynyk concludes his high school season, he’ll return to the National Elite Development Academy in Hamilton, Ontario, where he trains with Canada’s other top players. He’s roomed in the past with Arop. They will play together on the Canadian junior national team in the world championships in New Zealand this summer.
Olynyk said he visited San Diego and was offered a scholarship by the WCC school. He also took unofficial visits to Syracuse and Providence and was drawing extensive interest from numerous U.S. and Canadian schools, Ken Olynyk said.
“It’s a relief,” Kelly Olynyk said. “Now I have to focus on school and improving my game. It takes a little pressure off, but it’s also good now because when I play everyone is going to be gunning for me since I’m the guy going to Gonzaga.”
This is a big week for the WCC with clashes involving the top four teams, headlined by Gonzaga’s first-place showdown with Saint Mary’s on Thursday. Both teams are 5-0 in conference. Gonzaga hosts San Diego (4-1) on Saturday while the Gaels visit Portland (4-1).
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are now ranked in both major polls. The Bulldogs moved up three spots to No. 20 in the Associated Press top 25. They cracked the ESPN/USA Today rankings at No. 25 after being in the others receiving votes category lastweek.
Saint Mary’s joined the AP poll at No. 22. The Gaels improved four spots in the ESPN/USA Today poll to No.18.
“They’re probably as hot as any team in the country with the way they’re playing, the way they’re shooting it and they’re coming off a huge win at San Diego where they just dominated,” Few said. “Beating (San Diego) that decidedly on their home floor is quite a statement. It’ll be a big challenge, but we’ve had a lot of those this year.”
This is the first game this season between two ranked conference opponents from a non-BCS conference.
The Gaels have a nation-leading 15-game winning streak. The Zags have won six in a row.
“Our confidence is really high right now,” junior guard Matt Bouldin said. “We’re coming off a good road trip and I know Saint Mary’s is, too. They’re kind of our rivals, especially in conference.”
Backup center Robert Sacre said the latest X-rays show his foot is healing and he hopes to be out of a walking boot soon. Sacre re-injured his foot, which was surgically repaired in October, prior to the Arizona game in mid-December.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “I’ll be wearing two shoes next Monday if everything goes well. We’ll have to see how it heals from there. I’m trying not to rush it, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
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