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A Grip on Sports: Their play in Chicago is helping a couple former Gonzaga players cement their future

Andrew Nembhard scored a game-high 26 points during Friday’s NBA draft combine at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.  (Associated Press)
Andrew Nembhard scored a game-high 26 points during Friday’s NBA draft combine at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The stock market isn’t doing much to help us sleep these days, so it’s little wonder 3:30 hit this morning and we were wide awake. When will the darn Nasdaq start rising again? Hopefully before the NBA draft.

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• The league will put on its show in a little more than a month, not too long after Klay Thompson earns another ring. The questions we have between now and then all have to do with Gonzaga and the trio of its players who should be intimately involved. Some are up, some are down.

On the up side of the ledger is one player Zags fans probably hoped would return and another who couldn’t even if he wanted to. We are referring, of course, to Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard.

More than a few GU followers have mentioned to me over the past couple months their wish to see Timme return. For that to happen, however, the big man would have had to bomb during his tryouts. That’s not the case.

Timme is, along with Nembhard, showing off his skills at the NBA’s draft combine this week. And he’s doing there the same thing he’s done the past couple years to everyone in college hoops: make them look silly.

But his patented awkward-looking moves around the rim have been supplemented with a skill he didn’t show often in Spokane: the ability to drain 3-pointers. In yesterday’s game, Timme hit 4-of-5 from long range, showing general managers he’s not just a guy who has to sit at the block to help on the offensive end. It can only help his draft stock.

Nembhard doesn’t need to exhibit that, though it couldn’t hurt. What he continues to display on a possession-by-possession basis is an even more desirable skill: He can run an offense. There is no one at the combine who is better in the pick-and-roll, which means at least a dozen teams have added his name to their draft list – or written it in Sharpie.

But what goes up is usually accompanied by something, or someone, going down. We’re afraid that might just be Chet Holmgren. When the lottery finished the other night, there was immediate conjecture Orlando might use the first pick to take the 7-foot “unicorn” and team him with best bud Jalen Suggs.

It still could happen. But whoever takes Holmgren would have to be willing to take a gamble – and not be afraid of the consequences of failure.

Of the three players seen as the draft’s top prospects – Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Auburn’s Jabari Smith – the Gonzaga freshman is the most unusual, both in skill level and body type. Which means taking him has some risk.

If he reaches his potential, he could be a player for the ages. But there is also a chance he finds himself overmatched and never becomes the franchise centerpiece a top pick should be. No matter what, the team that drafts Holmgren has to be patient as he develops and adapts early in his professional tenure.

Does anyone have that type of patience anymore? We’ll see.

• There is one more Gonzaga player in Chicago. Rising junior Julian Strawther went through skills work but hasn’t been playing in games. The wing did well in the measurable aspects of the combine. Not playing, however, either means he’s nursing an injury, has decided to return to Spokane or feels his draft stock would only be diminished by competing in games. We are picking the middle option. We expect to see him back in a Gonzaga uniform one more season. But he’s the only starter from last year we can say that about.

•••

WSU: Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, every major college conference was hit hard financial by the pandemic. But none more so than the Pac-12, as Jon Wilner outlines here. … The family of Washington coach Jim Lambright donated his brain following his death. It has led to some big discoveries. … Oregon has lured another specialist to campus, this time a kicker from Cincinnati. … We have an Oregon State mailbag to pass along. … Kyle Whittingham is getting the national recognition he deserves. … A former top Arizona assistant coach has died. … USC has great receivers but they look different than those from the recent past. … In basketball news, Tommy Lloyd has lured a European big to Tucson. Why are we not surprised? … Oregon State has rebuilt its roster. … In softball, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona all won. … Who is going to win the baseball regular-season title? Who knows?

Gonzaga: We linked Theo Lawson’s story about Timme’s and Nembhard’s performances in Chicago but we do it again here in case you missed it above. … The baseball team won 8-4 last night in San Diego. Why is that a big deal? That clinches the WCC regular-season title. … Around the WCC, we can pass along even more on BYU’s new women’s basketball coach.

EWU and Idaho: Montana State’s new basketball coach had multiple opportunities to show his faithfulness. … The Wildcats’ softball team lost in its NCAA first-round game. … A Northern Arizona quarterback got an early start on his freshman season.

Preps: The year is almost finished but not before track and field districts, which Keenan Gray covers in this story, and competition in other sports, which Dave Nichols covers in this roundup, ends.

Indians: Eugene is going to be happy to leave Spokane after Sunday’s game. The Emeralds have seen the Indians win three games already this week in their final at-bat, including Friday’s 4-3 decision at Avista. Dave has the story.

Mariners: We called it yesterday. Even with Robbie Ray, who had his obligatory one bad inning, on the mound, Seattle lost 7-3 and fell to 17-23 after 40 games. It will be tough to rally and make the postseason. … Scott Servais admitted he screwed up and has moved on.

Sounders: The Hall of Fame beckons Clint Dempsey. … The National Team beckons Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. … Seattle visits Colorado tomorrow night.

Seahawks: Undrafted free agent quarterback Levi Lewis is no longer with the team. … A mailbag would help right now, wouldn’t it?

Storm: The offense sputtered last night, so the defense came to the rescue in an 83-80 win over Los Angeles.

Golf: What a weird day in Tulsa. The guys playing in the morning had to put up with winds gusts up to about 40 miles per hour. Tough conditions. Then it just disappeared and the afternoon groups put up some great scores.

Horse racing: It is going to be hot in Baltimore today. Can Epicenter hold up this time?

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• Seems like a good day to work in the yard. Though the golf and horse racing does call to us from the television. Does anyone know how to turn it off? We’ve unplugged the darn thing and it is still calling our name. Sounds like a plot from one of the Simpsons’ Halloween shows. Until later …

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