Gonzaga Bulldogs: Where to go without KO

 

gonzaga basketball

Kelly Olynyk (Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The 2012-2013 Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team had a season to remember. It was a year of firsts for the unstoppable Zags, getting a number one ranking and a number one overall tournament seed. Led by upperclassmen Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, the Bulldogs looked poised for what they hoped was another first: a final four run.

Then came the NCAA tournament and a pesky Wichita State to put an abrupt end to a remarkable season.

Unfortunately, the 2012-2013 team is gone and so are some of their key players. Most notably, recent NBA center draftee Kelly Olynyk (KO) and forward Elias Harris. It is time for Gonzaga to replenish, something the program has successfully done in the past decade.

After a stellar junior season averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds, Olynyk was drafted 13th overall by the Boston Celtics. KO, who burst onto the scene after a redshirt season, was the go-to-guy. He is a true 7-footer who can score in the post, hit mid-range jumpers, and knock down threes. Olynyk shot an astonishing 63 percent from the field and was first team All-American.

Harris, a four-year starter for the Zags, averaged 14.6 points with 7.4 rebounds. He went undrafted; however, he caught on to the Los Angeles Lakers’ summer league team and signed a two-year deal with the purple and gold. Harris, along with KO, was a major contributor and team leader. The two combined accounted for over 16 win shares. That means that they were responsible for half of the team’s wins last season. To say the least, their departure leaves the Zags thin on the front line.

The good thing for the Bulldogs is that they have lost skilled big men before and they have a long history of producing talented front court players. In the past decade alone, big men Ronny Turiaf, Corey Violet, J.P. Bautista, Josh Heytvelt, and Robert Sacre have all come through, not to mention recent players Olynyk and Harris. The next big man in line has his chance to prove himself.

Enter Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski.

Dower is a senior center that has been itching for a chance to start. During Dower’s first two seasons, he was stuck behind star player and now L.A. Laker Robert Sacre. After Sacre graduated, Dower was the next to start until the emergence of Olynyk. As a natural scorer, Dower averaged 6.9 points on an average of 16 minutes per game. Dower has been a vital bench player for several years and his senior season is the perfect time for him to make an impact.

Karnowski was a high rated recruit coming into last season. At 7-foot-1 and 305 pounds, powerhouse schools such as Duke were interested in his services until ultimately he chose Gonzaga. Karnowski showed promise last season, averaging more than 5 points in only 10 minutes of action per game. However, he also showed the inconsistencies of being a freshman. If Karnowski can find a way to slim down and work on his game, he could be a big part of next year’s rotation.

The 2013-2014 Bulldogs will be thinner up front than in years past; however, they may have their deepest backcourt in years.

With experience at the guard position, the Zags should have 6 players fighting for minutes led by Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr.

They were both highly sought after recruits and starters since their freshmen year. These guards have been tested and are equipped to take over as they enter their junior season.

This team will go as the guards go. Pangos shot over 41 percent from three last season averaging 11.9 points. Bell shot 39 percent from three and averaged 9 points.

The Bulldogs also have several floor spacers in Drew Barham and Kyle Dranginis, as well as added depth and experience in backup point guard David Stockton and Providence College transfer Gerard Coleman.

The 2012-2013 Gonzaga basketball team will be remembered as one of, if not the best Gonzaga team of all time. While it will be hard to replicate what happened last season, this Gonzaga team will be no slouch themselves. With a deep backcourt of experienced, proven guards as well as a frontcourt with developing talent, I expect big things from the 2013-2014 Bulldogs. The number one ranking and one seed were huge milestones achieved with the help of KO and Harris and they will be sorely missed; but, the core nucleus of the team remains. Gonzaga only lost 3 players and like in years past, the Zags always find ways to rebuild and recoup.