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Gonzaga freshman takes it all in stride

Gonzaga freshman guard Kevin Pangos scored 33 points to lead the Zags past Washington State last week. (Associated Press)
Gonzaga freshman guard Kevin Pangos scored 33 points to lead the Zags past Washington State last week. (Associated Press)

It turns out the timing was pretty good for Kevin Pangos’ phone to be down.

The Gonzaga freshman point guard had just lit up Washington State with nine 3-pointers and 33 points last Monday. He was trending worldwide on Twitter. Surely he would be flooded with phone calls and text messages, right?

“My phone wasn’t working at the time, I didn’t pay my phone bill,” Pangos said. “It was perfect timing actually.”

Instead, Pangos had screen after screen of congratulatory messages on Facebook and Twitter. And, after paying his bill, his phone was working within a day and he received numerous calls and texts.

“Social networking was ridiculous,” Pangos said.

It could be a bit overwhelming for a seasoned professional athlete, let alone an 18-year-old freshman playing in just his second collegiate basketball game. Pangos, though, seemed to handle it in stride, much like he does when he’s directing Gonzaga’s offense on the court.

“He’s rock solid and very grounded,” head coach Mark Few said. “He’s very much into working and getting better. He’s not a guy that’s going to get caught up in too much hype.”

Shrugged freshman guard Gary Bell Jr., who is also receiving plenty of attention after a pair of double-figures scoring games: “No change at all. He’s always the same.”

Many well-wishers had similar messages: Congratulations and keep it in perspective.

“Which is what I’ve been trying to do,” said Pangos, who is from Newmarket, Ontario. “I keep telling myself it was just one game. I had a blast, it was a great game for me but going through the tape there were a lot of things I need to fix.”

Pangos’ dad, Bill, and mom, Patty, were accomplished players. Bill coaches Kevin’s sister, Kayla, at York University in Toronto. Pangos said his parents help him keep basketball in perspective. His father taught him proper shooting mechanics and Pangos honed his form during countless hours of practice.

Pangos put up shots daily on the family hoop, which was marked with a 3-point line and free-throw line. If it didn’t fit into his schedule after school, a well-positioned streetlight allowed him to shoot at night.

“My neighbors would always hear me out there at night,” he said. “I actually found it fun and relaxing. Depending on my schedule, I’d try to make anywhere from 300 to 500 shots.”

Not all of those were taken from behind the 3-point stripe.

“I didn’t want to be a one-shot guy,” he said. “I’d mix it up. I like taking different shots. It’s fun to try expanding my game and work on new things.”

Turkey day

Gonzaga typically plays in a tournament on or near Thanksgiving, but not this season. Still, with Saturday’s game against Western Michigan in the Arena, there isn’t enough time for most of the players to return home to be with their families.

The coaching staff will have players at their homes on the holiday. Forwards Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower might take matters into their own hands.

“Stocks (David Stockton) invited us to his house last year, but Sam and I might try to cook our own meal,” Olynyk said. “It’ll be interesting.”


Gonzaga moved up to No. 19 in the A.P. and ESPN/USA Today polls. … Robert Sacre’s return home was a success as he had 16 points and 10 rebounds in GU’s win over Hawaii in Vancouver on Saturday. “He’s meant everything to this program,” Few said. “He’s so loose and rolls with everything but I could tell it meant a lot to him in the conversations we had afterward.” … It was also a homecoming for Olynyk, the Kamloops, B.C., native who is redshirting. Asked which was bigger, Saturday’s GU game or Sunday’s B.C. Lions’ CFL playoff game, Olynyk said, “For me, definitely going up there and winning. Maybe for B.C. the football game.” … Pangos was named WCC player of the week after averaging 22.5 points and 4.5 assists in two wins. … Roughly 1,500 tickets remain for Saturday’s game. They’re available at TicketsWest outlets and

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