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Zag Up catch phrase catches on with merchandise-crazy Gonzaga fans

UPDATED: Wed., March 21, 2018, 9:59 p.m.

Zag Up is more than just a couple of words printed on a warm-up shirt – it’s become Gonzaga’s catch phrase between the players and the fans.

But it’s not something that the Zags generated on their own. Nike had a huge hand in creating the phrase for Gonzaga’s bench legend performance shirts that the team wears during warm-ups and games.

The Zags have had a number of Nike-created slogans attached to the program. Last year’s “Gonzaga Mentality” was a hit among fans, but wasn’t anything special to the GU program. Nike has distributed the mentality shirts to a variety of teams that the company dresses over the years.

This year’s Zag Up isn’t that much more personable to the Zags, but the phrase is at least their own.

“I like Zag Up,” Gonzaga guard Brian Pete said.

“I like Zag Up, too,” guard Alex Martin said. “But if I really sat down and thought about it, I could come up with something good.”

Or at least something that would represent the team better.

“It might be an inside joke for our whole team though, like only we would get it,” Martin said.

Killian Tillie and Joel Ayayi, both from France, have taught the team a few catch phrases in French that would certainly be hard to understand on a warm-up shirt. Jeremy Jones thought his excessive use of “That’s fire” could make the cut for a decent shirt slogan.

Other Zags have sayings that wouldn’t make sense to anyone but the players.

“Like Rui (Hachimura) says, ‘I don’t do this,’ all the time. I don’t know why but he always says it,” Martin said. “Like he always wants to sit shotgun, so any time anybody else calls shotgun, he’s like, ‘No, I don’t do this.’ Like he’s not playing that game.”

The Zags might have some head-scratching sayings that would likely not catch on with the fans, but they would be different from the one-size-fits-all slogans – United We Stand, Never Stops, Always Us, Commit and Family, Always Reppin’ – that Nike likes to hand out.

There have been some teams that have had the opportunity to personalize their shirt slogans to fit the character of the program.

Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation is a well-known slogan that has made a recurring appearance on the warm-up shirts and has caught on beyond Kentucky fans.

Oregon has printed “Bend Your Knees” on its shirts for several years. It’s a homage to head coach Dana Altman and is Altman’s favorite go-to phrase for fixing almost any problem on the court.

But whether or not the slogans are personalized, the bench legend performance shirts tend to still be popular amongst the fans.

Megan Hawley, the Zag Shop store manager, said last year’s Gonzaga Mentality shirts were the most popular of the shirts sold all season. This season’s Zag Up have been just as popular, so much so that the store is out the Zag Up shirts for the Sweet 16 showing.

According to Gonzaga University officials, Zag Shop’s apparel distributor Follett shipped close to $20,000 worth of merchandise to Los Angeles this week to be sold to alumni and fans for Gonzaga’s run through the West Regional.

The Zag Shop will have a variety of shirts to sell throughout the week and other items to bring to the games such as rally beads, pompoms and foam fingers. Most of the merchandise will be sold at the alumni parties in L.A. on game day.

The Zag Shop has hit the road a few other times this season. It was in Boise for Gonzaga’s second-round win over Ohio State on Saturday. It also made it to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference Tournament earlier this month and the PK80 Invitational in Portland in November.

Hawley said Gonzaga’s seemingly never-ending fan base has helped her clear out the shop’s merchandise in every stop on the road this season.

“The Zag fans are a pretty … invested group of people,” she said. “They … travel really strong and really well. And everywhere I’ve been … there is always a strong presence that you can just feel for Gonzaga.”

Follow along with the Zags

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