LAS VEGAS – Drew Timme and college basketball. Made for each other.
His record-setting scoring numbers at Gonzaga are the quantitative part of the story.
In a larger sense, the senior forward represents the best of the college game – what it used to be and maybe what it should always be. Team first and always. Share the ball. Master the fundamentals. Deflect the praise and divide the credit. Positively represent the university.
And have fun because it’s a game. Sure, Timme dresses it up with some theatrics, but that’s for entertainment purposes and never a diversion.
If a program could pick a guy to be its all-time scoring king, Timme is perfect.
In keeping with this preamble, Timme was somewhat casual about his individual accomplishment of breaking Frank Burgess’ all-time Gonzaga scoring record Tuesday night. He was instead focused on the team’s winning of the school’s 10th West Coast Conference Tournament title in the past 11 seasons.
As a result, the Zags earned their 25th straight NCAA Tournament bid. And, given their domination of rival Saint Mary’s in Tuesday’s title game (77-51), the Zags are peaking at the right time.
Leading the nation in scoring has become commonplace, but this group has developed into an imposing defensive force, holding the Gaels to 33% shooting.
Timme’s perch atop the scoring ladder seemed inevitable, and he assumed it about midway through the first half on a delicate baby hook from only a few feet away. Nobody would be more happy about it than the late Burgess, who remained a huge Gonzaga fan until his death in 2010.
As impressive as his 2,210 points were, the 118-12 record the Zags have registered in Timme’s four-year tenure is a greater testament to his overall contributions to GU.
“He’s nothing but a winner,” coach Mark Few said.
After accepting the tournament trophy, Few said that he’d never been more proud of a group, collectively, because this season featured more losses, a snapped home-game winning streak, and coming into the tournament as a No. 2 seed.
Steady throughout, though, was the All-American Timme. Tuesday, he had 18 points and six rebounds. He had promised after the Monday might semifinal win over San Francisco that he wouldn’t mind going scoreless as long as the Zags won Tuesday.
With a hint of Texas still in his voice, and his customary grin activated, Timme makes such statements seem more sincere than a typical college-athlete platitude. Timme, in fact, has given every indication that he never just says things because somebody thinks he should.
Describing the Zags’ relationship with Saint Mary’s, for instance, he called it “a respected hatred.” The rivals evoked in each other “a controlled rage,” he said, adding, “I think that’s what makes the game so beautiful. Teams are giving it their all, but at the end of the day they’re competitors and respect each other for how hard they play.”
The beauty of college basketball captured in the comment, another example that Timme, simply, gets it.
Although he’s eligible for an extra “COVID” year, he’s already declared that he’s moving on. Some consider his skills as geared more to the college game than the pros. Maybe, but he seems worthy of a legitimate look. And it would be unwise to bet against him.
“It’s been a helluva ride,” Timme said. “But we’ve got a lot left to do.”
The defeat of the Gaels (26-7) should solidify the No. 9-ranked Zags as a third regional seed, perhaps in the West Region, where their fan support always serves as a boost. Last season, GU made it to the Sweet 16 for the seventh straight year (ignoring the pandemic cancellation year). It was Timme who several times hoisted the team on his shoulders to rally them to a second-half winning effort.
A great player elevates his game when he’s most needed, and Timme averaged more than 27 points in the three NCAA games last March.
He already has the GU scoring assault out of the way, and another trip to the Final Four would be a nice career capper.
As he said, he has a lot left to do.