Fans lined up in droves for the Kraziness in the Kennel intrasquad scrimmage at McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday to watch a Gonzaga team with many new, intriguing faces.
After losing starters Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Eric McClellan from last season’s team, the Zags are relying on a crop of eight newcomers.
While many fans admit it might take some time for the pieces to come together, the expectations remain the same: Win the West Coast Conference and make the NCAA tournament.
“I think to be realistic, (the expectation) would be to win the WCC and win the WCC tournament in Las Vegas,” said Steve Heinen, of Spokane. “Anything else would be icing on the cake.”
The biggest takeaway for most fans at Saturday’s scrimmage was the play of Przemek Karnowski, who underwent season-ending back surgery last year. The redshirt senior scored 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting and pulled in two rebounds for the Red team.
“It’s good to have Karnowski back,” said Ben Bailess, of Seattle, who was visiting his daughter for Gonzaga’s Fall Family Weekend. “He’s moving well, considering he had a back injury.”
Others were impressed with freshmen Zach Collins and Killian Tillie, as well as transfers Jordan Mathews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jeremy Jones.
With so many new but talented pieces, fans are in disagreement whether the Zags just reloaded from last season or are in a rebuilding year. Josh Boone from Kettle Falls agrees with the former.
“I think they’ll be very, very athletic this year and I think they have a great chance of reaching Elite 8, Final Four again,” he said. “If they do the right thing with all that talent … they’ll be right up there with that elite team because of some of the athleticism and some of the transfers that already have experience on the court. I think that’s going to put us really far.”
Others, like Fenton Drake of Spokane, think it will take some time for the Zags’ chemistry to come together.
“The only problem I see is they’re coming from all different kinds types of places; it’s going to take awhile,” he said.
Keola Caindec, of Marin County, California, had a similar comment.
“It looked like they’re forming and starting to work on their teamwork,” Caindec said. “It won’t be easy, but it’ll be fun to watch.”
Drew Carlton, a junior at Gonzaga, thinks the team’s new addition fit in with the direction of the program.
“They look similar (from the last few seasons),” Carlton said. “I think every year they get the same type of players.”
And with those similar pieces, along with returners in Karnowski, Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Carlton has high hopes for the 2016-17 Zags.
“Honestly now with the last few years, (the expectation) is you make the Sweet 16,” he said. “Every year they do better and the bar just gets set higher.”
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