Gonzaga’s Kraziness in the Kennel scrimmage – often ragged but packed with examples of the team’s considerable potential – had just concluded when coach Mark Few noticed his players milling around on the court.
Few reminded them of the Zags’ post-practice/game tradition of huddling at center court and acknowledging the fans if there’s an audience – in this case the 6,000-plus Saturday inside the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“We didn’t know if we should do it or not at Kraziness,” freshman forward Drew Timme said, “but he reminded us.”
It was an example of just how new the Zags are with six freshmen and two graduate transfers donning GU uniforms in game-like conditions for the first time. They were even younger without senior Killian Tillie. The most experienced Zag had knee surgery Thursday, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be sidelined for too long.
The newcomers appear to be catching on quickly during this crash-course introduction to Gonzaga’s system. Older, more established players shined the most in the 16-minute scrimmage, with junior forward Corey Kispert, sophomores Filip Petrusev and Joel Ayayi, and grad transfers Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge leading the way.
It was no coincidence those five suited up primarily for the Blue, which consisted of the current top seven to eight players, although Ayayi, Timme, Brock Ravet and Anton Watson switched teams near the midpoint.
The Blue cruised to a 43-23 win over the White. Gilder went 3 for 3 on 3-pointers and scored 14 points. Kispert added 11 points, Petrusev seven and point guard Woolridge played roughly 14 turnover-free minutes while contributing four points. Ayayi drained three long 3s.
The freshmen had their moments, including Timme and Watson each with six points and point guard Ravet showing off his shooting range and passing ability.
“As is usually the case, the older guys, especially when you get under the lights, react a little better but some of the young guys, Drew and Anton have picked up things well,” Few said. “Brock had a good day and that’s a good sign.”
Joel Ayayi is introduced Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 at Kraziness in the Kennel at Gonzaga University. The annual fan festival for the Gonzaga Bulldogs was standing room only. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Perhaps the best sign was Gilder (blood clot) and Woolridge (kneecap surgery) playing without restriction following health issues last season. Both admitted they’re not quite 100 percent, but they’re getting closer with the season opener one month away.
“We’re really counting on those two to have an impact,” Few said.
Not to mention several of the freshmen. Timme, Watson and Ravet looked the most comfortable on the court.
The Kennel Club offered a warm ovation when four recruits – GU commits Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther and uncommitted Minneapolis teammates Jalen Suggs and Chet Homgren – sat down courtside. Suggs, Harris and Strawther are close friends and have called themselves the “Tricky Trio,” which prompted a “Tricky Trio” chant from the student section.
The overflow crowd was fully engaged during the 3-point contest as Ravet connected from beyond the new 3-point line of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches, approved by the NCAA in June. Gilder edged Ayayi in one semifinal and Ravet knocked off Kispert by draining a tiebreaking 3 from the corner.
Ravet continued burying corner 3s, hitting 6 of 8 and also 4 of 4 from the top of the key to defeat Gilder in the final.
Petrusev captured the skills competition, which consisted of dribbling slalom-style through cones, passing to a fan and then hitting a layup/dunk, free throw and 3-pointer.
The 6-11 sophomore defeated Watson in the semifinals and Timme in the finals. The two big men bumped and pushed each other several times, trying to throw off the opponent’s shot, before Petrusev connected on the deciding 3-pointer.
“It was great, as always,” Petrusev said of the environment. “It gave everybody a sense of how that feels, which is important because there’s a lot of new guys.”
Timme already had a feel for the Kennel after visiting along with Ravet for Kraziness a year ago.
“It’s not even a game, it’s literally just a glorified practice and that many fans show up,” Timme said. “It’s the main reason I fell in love with the place.”
The whole team will probably hear from the coaching staff when it gathers to review the scrimmage videotape. The White team committed 14 turnovers.
“It was our first time out there and everyone was a little antsy,” Timme said. “We definitely might get an ear or two chewed off in film, but that’s how you learn.”
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