NEW YORK – Silas Melson concluded warm-up drills prior to Friday’s victory over St. John’s and headed toward Gonzaga’s bench.
He was greeted near midcourt with a hug from fellow freshman guard Josh Perkins, whose broken jaw in Wednesday’s win over Georgia prompted Gonzaga coaches to pull Melson’s redshirt.
Perkins has kept his spirits up despite a couple of tough days. He managed a postgame smile – or as much of a grin as his wired jaw would allow – following the Zags’ 73-66 victory Friday in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship at Madison Square Garden.
Perkins’ presence allowed Pangos to rest or to slide to the “2,” where he could utilize his spot-up shooting ability. Perkins, a gifted passer, is averaging 20 minutes, five points and 3.4 assists.
He won’t know how long he’s sidelined until he sees a specialist in Spokane. He said the pain “was pretty bad.” He tried to stay away from watching replays but was unsuccessful because they were on every highlight show and all over the Internet.
Perkins’ dad and mom texted immediately after the Georgia game to check on their son. His dad has decided to join Josh on a liquid-based diet and offered to find creative recipes.
“He had a carrot shake,” Perkins said. “I don’t know if I’m going to try that one.”
Perkins, who downed several nutritional shakes for Thanksgiving dinner and his meals Friday, planned on splurging after the St. John’s win.
“I need a milkshake,” he said, “an Oreo milkshake.”
Melson made a sudden impact when he took the court against St. John’s.
“I told Silas opportunity knocked on the door and he needs to be ready to contribute,” Perkins said. “We’re going to need him.”
Melson responded by knocking down a 3-pointer on his first shot attempt at famed MSG roughly two minutes after checking into the game.
“It was very tough to see Josh go down,” Melson said. “We’re very close; all of the freshmen are close.”
Melson had a pretty good idea what was going to happen as soon as he released his first attempt.
“When I shot it, I literally said it’s going to be my first college bucket,” said Melson, who finished with five points in 11 minutes. “It was my shot, I felt it.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few stressed throughout the decision to redshirt Melson that the 6-foot-4 freshman was game-ready but the staff worried he wouldn’t get enough playing time, particularly with Eric McClellan becoming eligible Jan. 6.
“He banged in a couple shots,” Few said. “He can do that. I think he will help us.”
Melson said he’s been practicing with the mindset that he might play.
“Coach Few tells me in practice to work with the main players, like (Kevin) Pangos, just in case, Melson said. “He had a feeling, I guess, so I was ready.”
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