Drew Timme put up some of quality defensive work when the topic of his legacy at Gonzaga and in college basketball surfaced recently.
It isn’t the first time he’s been asked the question. It won’t be the last. He gave a reasoned response, but he’s keenly aware any answer would be incomplete with his senior season about to take flight. It’s like taking a four-page test with only three pages on your desk.
“That’s something I’ve definitely heard a lot about,” Timme said. “That’s something I can’t fully appreciate because I am in the moment and I don’t want to really think about that. It’s more important to take care of the now and take care of business. Wherever the dominoes fall, they fall.
“It’s definitely super cool and an honor to even be mentioned in conversations in those areas.”
How could he not be? Timme is a two-time AP All-American (second team the past two years) and the program’s all-time leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament. He enters the season 15th on Gonzaga’s career scoring list and would rise to second if his production matches his previous two seasons.
It’s a complex exercise comparing players from different eras and Timme’s career to, say, all-time leading scorer Frank Burgess, who averaged 23.2, 28.9 and 32.4 points, respectively, while tallying nearly 2,200 points in just three seasons from 1959-61.
Or John Stockton, who become one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. Or Adam Morrison, who elevated the program to another stratosphere while earning 2006 co-national player of the year with Duke’s J.J. Redick. Nor is it easy comparing four-year standouts with a growing list of stars who wore a Zags uniform for one or two seasons before moving on to the NBA.
What seems indisputable is that Timme, by any measure, stacks up just fine, even if he never scored on another balletic post move, punctuated by a ’stache celebration and maybe a word or two for a flummoxed defender.
Coach Mark Few took a swing at Timme’s place in GU and college hoops annals. Like Timme, Few has shifted into in-season mode with a string of marquee nonconference games ahead.
“He’s the epitome of what’s good with NIL (name, image and likeness) and also with everything that’s going on with the attention,” Few said. “I also think Drew would have been fine 20 years ago, I think he would have appreciated the anonymity where he could do his own thing.
“We’ve had some great characters over the years and also just incredible players. He’s certainly at the top of those lists, and I think you could say the same in the history of college basketball. I keep throwing this stat out and I think it’s pretty close to accurate: He’s probably spent as much time ranked No. 1 as he hasn’t, which is a ridiculous statistic. … It’s hard to maybe comprehend and understand it when you’re right in the middle of it, but it’s something.”
Yes it is, chimed in other West Coast Conference coaches, who get paid a healthy sum of money to try to figure out how to slow down Timme, and in turn, the Zags. BYU’s Mark Pope, Randy Bennett of Saint Mary’s and Pepperdine’s Lorenzo Romar were effusive describing Timme’s game and impact on Gonzaga and beyond.
“He’s a really special talent, he’s a really special player,” said the 6-foot-10 Pope, who has been around college hoops for decades as a player or coach. “I’m not happy he’s coming back, but I’m so happy he’s coming back, right, just as a person that loves college basketball. It’s so good for the game.”
(Told of Pope’s comment later, Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek didn’t pause: “I’m not as noble as Mark, I wanted him to leave.”)
Meanwhile, Pope continued on for another 60 seconds.
“He also is teaching us all about the game,” Pope added. “You see unique players like that and you can’t help but think about the game in new ways. He has a really unique skill set for a top player in the country, a really unique skill set, and so just as a coach I’m grateful for him because he makes us think about the game differently and you don’t get that all the time. He’s had a massive impact on college basketball.”
Bennett has had a close-up look at most of Gonzaga’s greatest players since becoming Saint Mary’s head coach in 2001. He’s usually been on the losing end versus Timme, but Saint Mary’s did limit the big man to six points in an upset win over top-ranked Gonzaga last February in Moraga, California.
“In my opinion, in college basketball he’s the best one,” Bennett said. “I knew it was coming after that (17-point game in Timme’s freshman year against Saint Mary’s at the WCC Tournament). He’s got a chance to be the best center in college basketball three years in a row. You don’t see that very often.”
Significant NIL dollars helped that opportunity come about, but perhaps not as much as some might suggest.
“It was definitely a factor, but it wasn’t the main factor,” Timme said. “The whole time it was money doesn’t matter in the decision.
“Obviously, there’s money both ways (returning or turning pro), but it was more about basketball and a what-I-wanted decision.
“My heart is in Spokane and I wasn’t ready to be an adult yet, I guess.”
Bennett has game-planned against a long list of accomplished GU frontcourt players, including Cory Violette, Ronny Turiaf, J.P. Batista, Josh Heytvelt, Elias Harris, Robert Sacre, Kelly Olynyk, Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis, Przemek Karnowski, Johnathan Williams, Zach Collins, Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Filip Petrusev.
Timme is unique – there’s that word again – partly due to an oversized personality that has made him the face of GU’s program and in many ways, college hoops.
“They’ve had guys that are pretty popular, pretty likeable,” Bennett said. “He’s got a personality a little different than most of them, but all positive. He and Sabonis have been the two toughest for me as a coach to deal with. They bring it, they have a good motor and they keep coming at you.”
Timme isn’t shy about sharing his opinion on or off the court, but often it’s incorrectly assumed to be trash talk when he trades words with an opponent. He once took a break from pregame warmups to chat with Merrimack coach Joe Gallo for 15 minutes with topics ranging from Spokane’s weather to why he doesn’t drink coffee.
“He’s a great guy,” Saint Mary’s forward Alex Ducas said. “At the end of the day, he cares for you as a person and always checks on how you’re doing. When I was injured my sophomore year, my first game back he came and asked how I was doing and said good luck the rest of the season.”
Romar, from his tenure at Washington and the last four seasons leading Pepperdine, is familiar with Gonzaga’s collection of talented bigs. Timme stands apart because of his unlimited supply of post moves.
“In all the years of competing and playing against Gonzaga, I don’t ever remember a post player with the type of footwork, the ability to score the ball and the craftiness like Drew Timme,” Romar said. “Very rarely does he not have his way offensively, I don’t care who they’re playing. He’s just hard to deal with and plays with so much poise offensively.
“When you have an offensive player that knows where his spots are and knows how to get there, you have a tough one to deal with. And that’s Drew Timme.”
And that’s one of the best to wear a Gonzaga uniform.