Just how good has Gonzaga’s frontcourt been in 2021-22?
The Bulldogs’ starting forwards were not only recognized when the West Coast Conference released its postseason honors, but Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren combined to win three of the four individual player awards handed out Wednesday morning.
Timme became Gonzaga’s fourth consecutive WCC Player of the Year recipient, claiming the award in a season in which the junior forward is also expected to contend for various national honors, along with All-American status. Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert (2020-21), Filip Petrusev (2019-20) and Rui Hachimura (2018-19) were the past three player of the year selections.
Holmgren, potentially the conference’s next-best option for player of the year, was named WCC Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year one day after Gonzaga’s freshman phenom was also recognized as one of 10 semifinalists for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.
Gonzaga, which enters this week’s WCC Tournament as the No. 1 seed with an overall record of 24-3, placed Timme, Holmgren and point guard Andrew Nembhard on the 10-player all-conference first team.
Guard Rasir Bolton and wing Julian Strawther were both named All-WCC honorable mention while Holmgren and guard Nolan Hickman were named to the all-freshman team.
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett was named WCC Coach of the Year while Gaels guard Tommy Kuhse was recognized as Sixth Man of the Year.
The conference’s individual awards, along with the all-conference teams, are voted on by the WCC’s 10 coaches.
After leading Gonzaga to a spot in the 2021 national championship game, Timme was considered a candidate for national player of the year entering his junior season with the Bulldogs. The Texas native has averaged 17.9 points in all games this season and leads the conference with 18.5 ppg in WCC contests.
Timme, who has two 30-point games in WCC play and three on the season, is also averaging 6.4 rebounds per game and has been Gonzaga’s second-best distributor, posting a career-high 2.7 assists per game.
The nation’s top recruit in the class of 2021, Holmgren delivered on preseason expectations by averaging 14.4 ppg and 9.7 rpg in all contests and averaged a double-double in WCC play with 15.6 ppg and 10.9 ppg. He was the conference’s leader in blocked shots, averaging 3.6 per game, and needs just 20 in Gonzaga’s remaining games to match the program’s single-season record set by Brandon Clarke.
Holmgren’s scoring totals came on outstanding efficiency, with the Minnesota native making 61% from the field and 43% from the 3-point line. He enters the postseason with 11 double-doubles and had at least 15 rebounds in three games this season.
The WCC’s assists leader, Nembhard has been one of the nation’s top point guards in 2021-22 and was recently named one of five national finalists for the Bob Cousy Award. The senior was the only WCC player to average better than five assists this season, dishing out 5.5 in all games and 6.4 in conference games.
Nembhard had a career-high 14 assists – also tied for the second most by a player in school history – during Gonzaga’s Feb. 16 game at Pepperdine and followed that with a 21-point, eight-assist, six-rebound effort against Santa Clara on Senior Night.
Like Gonzaga’s three other starters, Strawther and Bolton both averaged double figures for the nation’s top-scoring offense, with Strawther averaging 12.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg and Bolton scoring 11.0 ppg.
Other first-team selections include BYU’s Alex Barcello, San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea and Yauhen Massalski, Kuhse and Matthias Tass of Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams and Josip Vrankic.
Strawther had two 20-point scoring performances, posting 20 points against Duke in an 84-81 nonconference loss, and recorded 20 on 7-of-10 shooting in a 110-84 home win over BYU. Bolton, an Iowa State transfer, was GU’s most consistent perimeter shooter and made 47% on 3-pointers in his first season at Gonzaga.
Hickman averaged 18.2 minutes off the bench for Gonzaga and scored in double figures on four occasions.
The All-WCC second team consisted of Alex Ducas and Logan Johnson of Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara’s Keshawn Justice, Portland’s Tyler Robertson, LMU’s Eli Scott and San Francisco’s Khalil Shabazz.
Joining Hickman and Holmgren on the freshman team were Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis, Houston Mallette and Mike Mitchell Jr., San Diego’s Wayne McKinney III and BYU’s Foussenyi Traore.
The other honorable mention selections included Pacific’s Jeremiah Bailey, San Diego’s Marcellus Earlington and Portland’s Moses Woos.
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