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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins not a gunner, but he can fill it up

Gonzaga University guard Josh Perkins fires up his first shot of practice under the watch of assistant coach Brian Michaelson on Wednesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

About the time the Blue team slipped into a 10-point deficit during Gonzaga’s scrimmage Saturday, coach Mark Few instructed point guard Josh Perkins to be more aggressive looking for his shot.

Perkins quickly drove for a bucket, two of his 17 points in the final 9:15 to trigger Blue’s 39-35 victory over Red at Kraziness in the Kennel. All of the usual “just a scrimmage” caveats apply, but it was an impressive reminder of the redshirt freshman’s versatile game.

Perkins, the heir apparent to Kevin Pangos at point guard, was off to a strong start last season, averaging 5 points and 3.4 assists when he suffered a broken jaw in the fifth game. He averaged just 8 points on a loaded Huntington Prep squad as a senior, but rewind to his junior year at Regis High and he led Colorado 5A in scoring at 25.2 per game.

“That’s why we took him out of high school,” Few said of Perkins, who was ranked No. 56 on’s Top 100. “We had some other guys we evaluated. I liked and wanted ‘Perk’ because he could score, that works for us. I had to remind him about 6 minutes into the scrimmage to hunt his own shot.”

Until that point, Perkins was content to run the offense and take care of the ball.

“Just making simple plays, making the right plays, limiting turnovers,” said Perkins, who received a medical redshirt and has four years of eligibility. “But then I saw we needed buckets so I was more aggressive.”

Perkins scored on dribble penetration and on a pair of 3-pointers, the latter a step-back dagger that gave Blue a 36-34 lead with 1:10 left. He’s heard himself described as a pass-first point guard and a scoring point guard, but he came up with his own label.

“Unselfish point guard,” the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder said, “and capable of doing whatever the team needs me to do.”

Perkins had settled into a role as Pangos’ backup last season before Georgia’s Kenny Gaines bit on a pump-fake, went airborne and inadvertently kicked Perkins in the side of his face. Perkins wasn’t cleared to practice full contact until late April.

Perkins stayed engaged, traveling with the team, doing what he could on the side during practices and picking up pointers from Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. But nothing replaces the thrill of playing in front of a packed house, even if it was just an intrasquad scrimmage.

“It’s different to hear it (crowd noise) on the bench than it is playing,” he said. “It was a great feeling being back out there.”

Perkins figures to be a key player in the Zags’ new-look backcourt following the graduation of four-year starters Pangos and Bell.

“I would say we’re more expressive, maybe, emotionally, style of play is more up tempo,” Perkins said. “Those guys were tough, made the right play every time. You’re going to see a lot more turnovers, but maybe more athletic and the speed will change a lot.”

Wiltjer working

Kyle Wiltjer has received a number of preseason honors, including’s player of the year and’s statistical projection as the No. 1 player. The attention stems from Wiltjer’s scoring ability, but the senior forward is making strides in other areas of the game.

“His passing is better, if you saw some of the passes he made (in the scrimmage),” Few said. “He’s definitely a better defensive player than he was at the end of last season and I think his body is better.”

Wiltjer was credited with eight points, two rebounds, two blocks and one assist in Saturday’s scrimmage.