Asked recently to size up the talent in this year’s West Coast Conference, Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett ran through a short list of individual players from a variety of WCC schools, perhaps recognizing in real time how challenging it could be to win on a night-to-night basis over the next few months.
“I think (BYU’s Alex) Barcello, he’s good, a huge part of their program. The guy at Gonzaga (Drew) Timme, he’s a special player,” Bennett said. “I don’t know if (Gonzaga) has had one better than him over the years, he’s pretty dang good. You respect guys that have gone through it, (Jamaree) Bouyea at San Francisco. I actually like (Andrew) Nembhard a lot. He’s a good player, he really passes. The word for me is respect. Would you like coaching them? Heck yeah.”
If the WCC winds up being a four-bid conference this season – something that’s still a legitimate possibility as of the turn of the year – it’ll be a testament to the teams themselves, but also the quality of individual talent in places where it may have lacked in the past.
As No. 4 Gonzaga enters WCC play Thursday against visiting San Francisco, we examine one player from each team in the conference who could give the Bulldogs headaches this season.
Dec. 30 (postponed) – Marcellus Earlington, San Diego: Strong scorer and rebounder had already secured two double-doubles, posting 23 points and 16 rebounds against Cal Lutheran before totaling 22 points and 11 rebounds against Northern Arizona. The senior guard who’s shooting 43.4% from distance will be a factor if Bulldogs and Toreros manage to reschedule this week’s postponed matchup.
Jan. 27 – Eli Scott, Loyola Marymount: Fourth-year guard/forward was the only player in the WCC last season to average 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and is up to 15.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 3.8 apg this season. A gifted athlete, Scott could be the top player in the conference not wearing a Gonzaga or BYU uniform.
Jan. 6/Feb. 24 – Jamaree Bouyea, San Francisco: Fifth-year guard has been Todd Golden’s most reliable player and returns for final season after leading Dons in minutes played, field-goal percentage, 3-point field-goal percentage, assists, points and points per game. Is averaging 17.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 3.9 apg for the one-loss Dons.
Jan. 8/Feb. 3 – Jan Zidek, Pepperdine: Lorenzo Romar lost both Colbey Ross and Kessler Edwards, and Braun Hartfield was recently pulled from the team’s roster. Leading the Waves without that trio is Jan Zidek, a junior from Prague, who’s reached double figures in 11 of 15 games this season.
Jan. 13/Feb. 5 – Alex Barcello, BYU: One of the nation’s top perimeter shooters returns for his fifth college basketball season after making 53 of 111 3-pointers (47.7%) last season. The former Arizona guard scored 44 points in three games against Zags and is up to 17.3 ppg this season on 48.7% shooting from beyond the arc.
Jan. 15/Feb. 19 – Josip Vrankic, Santa Clara: Productive forward also took advantage of COVID-19 year and returned for a fifth season, though illness has forced him to miss eight games . After reaching career highs in points (15.2 ppg) and rebounds (8.2), Vrankic is scoring 15.3 ppg with 5.6 rpg and 4.1 apg this season, and could help Broncos to top-four WCC finish alongside Jalen Williams.
Jan. 20/Feb. 10 – Alphonso Anderson, Pacific: First-year Pacific coach Leonard Perry lured Anderson from Utah State after he earned Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year honors, averaging 6.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. The Tacoma native and Garfield High product is scoring 10.4 ppg with 6.2 rpg in 2021-22.
Jan. 29 – Tyler Robertson, Portland: One of three Eastern Washington transfers to join former Eagles coach Shantay Legans at Portland, Robertson was named the Big Sky’s top reserve player last season after averaging 11.1 ppg and 3 apg. He’s one of four Pilots in double figures, scoring 15.6 ppg with 6.3 rpg and 3.8 apg.
Feb. 12/Feb. 26 – Logan Johnson, Saint Mary’s: Spokane-born guard embraced a bigger role for Gaels last season and was the team’s top scorer, at 13.3 ppg and 15 ppg during WCC play. Johnson scored double figures in all three games against Gonzaga and is second on the Gaels with 10.3 ppg this season.
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