‘We have a lot of appreciation for him.’ Former USF great, NBA champ Bill Cartwright weighs in on Gonzaga’s Drew Timme
March 10, 2023 Updated Fri., March 10, 2023 at 6:03 p.m.
LAS VEGAS – Following Drew Timme’s college basketball career has become a complicated endeavor for Bill Cartwright.
As a basketball purist, Cartwright’s a fan of the artwork – Timme’s spin moves, feel and footwork in the low-post hearken back to the way the game was played in his era.
“The guy’s talented,” Cartwright said. “I think there’s plenty of guys who are talented, but this new style of play that’s going on now that of course drives all us old guys berserk. Those guys do a great job of balancing the court, putting him in great situations to score. He’s done a great job of playing really well.”
That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy to support the artist.
Cartwright, one of seven players to have their number retired by the University of San Francisco, is still intimately connected with his alma mater, working the past seven years as the school’s director of university initiatives.
“I’m just curious, is (Timme) ever leaving?” laughed Cartwright, who sat in on a news conference for new WCC commissioner Stu Jackson Monday morning and later attended a WCC Tournament semifinal game between USF and Gonzaga at the Orleans Arena.
After four hallmark seasons, Timme is officially out of the WCC’s hair after leading the Zags to a conference tournament championship in Vegas earlier this week, scoring 17 points in an 84-73 semifinal win over the Dons and adding 18 more in a 77-51 title game rout of Saint Mary’s to earn tournament most outstanding player honors.
Timme’s ascent up Gonzaga’s all-time scoring leaderboard concluded Tuesday, when the senior forward passed Frank Burgess to become the school’s record-holder at 2,210 career points.
The senior forward has downplayed the importance of individual accolades relative to team success, but there’s still more history to chase if Gonzaga can make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Timme has a realistic shot of cracking the top five of the WCC’s career scoring list, needing 27 points to leap former Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross.
Earlier this season, Timme bumped Cartwright (2,116 career points) down to No. 9 on the same list.
“He does a great job, he does a great job of representing the school and everything’s positive,” Cartwright said. “We have a lot of appreciation for him.”
Timme became the 14th player in WCC history to win multiple conference player of the year honors. Cartwright is the only player to have won it three times, from 1976-79, when the conference was still known as the West Coast Athletic Conference.
The former college and NBA great who won three championships with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls stands about 3 inches taller than Gonzaga’s All-American forward, but sees parallels in how they approach the game from an offensive standpoint.
“Some guys have a knack. Some guys are just willing, already rehearsed in what they want to do,” Cartwright said. “He’s one of those guys and I can remember as a player I had a series of 25 shots that I would shoot. It wasn’t the fact I was tall … I wasn’t the tallest, strongest, fastest, but nobody was better rehearsed. So, he’s one of those guys.
“He knows what he wants to do in every situation and that’s what it’s all about.”
As a Gonzaga freshman, Timme had a breakout game of sorts against Cartwright’s Dons, scoring what was then a career-high 19 points in a 83-79 victory at USF’s War Memorial Gym. Timme played 30 minutes as a result of foul trouble to starting forward Filip Petrusev, making 6 of 11 shots from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Cartwright also commended Timme’s durability. The forward has played in 130 of a possible 130 games since coming to Gonzaga and would have broken into the program’s top 10 for games played has the Bulldogs not lost out on a handful of postseason and regular-season games as a result of COVID-19.
“He’s done a good job of getting himself ready, keeping himself healthy,” Cartwright said. “That’s a big part of it, too. It’s incredible, so that’s a credit to their staff. We didn’t have all those health guys around (saying), ‘Don’t eat burgers, don’t eat candy.’ We ate everything we got. He’s done a great job and that’s just all part of the package.”
Pundits and analysts have spent years pondering whether Timme’s skills would translate to the NBA. A handful of mock drafts project Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer won’t hear his name called on draft night, while others suggest he could be selected in the middle or late stages of the second round.
Cartwright thinks Timme has a chance to find success at the next level, but it starts with finding the right fit.
“It’s going to depend on where, the team,” Cartwright said. “If your team has a spot for you, because what style of play is he going to fit best in? I don’t know. Your other big kid that’s at (Sacramento). (Domantas) Sabonis, he doesn’t fit every team, but he fits (Sacramento) perfectly. So it’s going to go the same for him, how he’s going to fit in with that team, is there a role for him, the right coach for him.”
Hours before Cartwright’s former school lined up against Timme and Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament, the 65-year-old was asked how he’d go about defending Mark Few’s star forward.
“Against Drew?” Cartwright laughed. “Don’t let him catch the ball. Don’t let him catch the ball.”
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