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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga rewind: Ben Gregg shines again and 1990s squads honored

After Gonzaga’s 101-74 blowout over San Diego at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday, we learned Ben Gregg is a tough self-critic and head coach Mark Few enjoyed a busy, rewarding week with dozens of former Zags in town.

Those are the topics in our latest Gonzaga rewind.

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Gregg, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, has played in 86 career games without a start, but he routinely finds a way to make a difference when he gets on the court. He had his best game yet with 22 points, seven boards, four steals, two assists, one block and zero turnovers in 25-plus minutes against the Toreros.

“It feels good,” he said. “I feel like I’ve had a pretty mediocre beginning to the season so far. To see some more shots go in felt good. Now it’s just building on that, getting more consistent and bringing it every game.”

Asked to elaborate on his supposed slow start, Gregg said, “Yeah, I have high expectations for myself. I don’t think I’ve lived up to what I can do yet, but we still have a long way to go. We just started conference.”

Gregg has been one of Gonzaga’s most reliable players. He had 14 points and eight rebounds vs. USC and 11 points against Washington. His least productive game statistically over the last nine was six points and four rebounds or nine points and two boards.

He’s averaging 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 17.1 minutes. He’s one of the team’s top shooters at 52.6% from the field, 36.1% on 3-pointers and 82.9% at the foul line. He’s second in steals (18) and third in made 3s (13).

Those figures don’t suggest a pretty mediocre impact. Gregg’s role isn’t an easy one, but he embraces it.

“Some days you’re tired and you can’t really bring energy as much as I’d like to, but it’s something you have to fight through and try to do whatever you can to lift these guys up,” Gregg said. “Whatever I can do coming in off the bench, they’ve got that first wind out of them so they’re probably tired, so just coming in and bringing that second run of energy and try to do whatever I can to help them play to their full potential as well.”

Gregg’s energy is palpable when he checks into games.

“That’s what he does, that’s who Ben Gregg is so we’re lucky to have him,” Few said of Gregg handling his role. “And he does buy in and he understands how important it is for him to do that.”

Decades of Zags

Gonzaga’s easy victories over Pepperdine and San Diego were well-timed with several events recognizing the 30-year anniversary of the 1994 Zags, the first team in program history to play in the postseason, and the 25-year anniversary of the 1999 Zags’ run to the Elite Eight.

Both teams were honored at The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages event Friday night at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center.

The 1999 players were greeted warmly by the crowd when introduced just before Thursday’s tip-off against Pepperdine at the Arena. Seven members from the 1994 team were recognized during a first-half timeout in Saturday’s game.

The 1994 Zags, coached by Dan Fitzgerald, beat Stanford in the first round of the NIT before falling to Kansas State 66-64. Fitzgerald led Gonzaga to its first NCAA Tournament in 1995. The Zags lost to Maryland in the opening round.

Few was a GU assistant for 10 seasons before being named head coach four months after the 1999 season.

“Exhausting, absolutely exhausting, awesome,” Few said of spending time with dozens of former players from the 1990s and preparing for a pair of WCC games. “I mean just so heart-warming, it’s so great to catch up with all the guys. I feel like I’m finally at the point where I caught up with most of them one-on-one and their spouses.

“It’s just incredible to have them come back, see how well they’re all doing and see how much it means to get an appreciation like this. Some of them haven’t been back, (Kyle) Dixon hasn’t been back since he left (in the mid-1990s) so I think he was blown away by all this. It’s been some late nights.”

Past and present Zags met following Friday’s practice.

“We got to physically shake everyone’s hands and really introduce ourselves to every single one of them,” junior guard Nolan Hickman said.

Assistant “coach (Stephen) Gentry made it a point after our pregame meal (Saturday) that this (throwback royal blue) jersey is not just for how it looks,” Gregg said. “Obviously it looks pretty cool, but just the legacy this place has and the teams that wore these set the blueprint for what we do now.

“You’re not only defending home court, but you’re defending everything they’ve done for us.”