Gonzaga Basketball ended on a bitter note this past season, and sadly two of the Zags’ most useful players have graduated and moved on. Both David Stockton and Sam Dower proved to be assets for the Gonzaga squad when they joined the team back in 2010. By graduating, they are leaving a gap in where they shined, and fans can only hope that players like Josh Perkins, Domantas Sabonis, and Kyle Wiltjer can fill their void.
Stockton started at Gonzaga as a walk on, but by his senior season, he had worked himself into a starting position. He was not the strongest player on the court, but he was skilled in seeing the court. Stockton led the team in assists in the 2013-2014 season. He averaged 4.2 assists per game.
Stockton will be missed this upcoming season, but incoming freshman Josh Perkins carries the potential to keep the assists going. During his senior year in high school, the 6-3 guard managed to have 4-5 assists per game at an elite basketball school in West Virginia. Perkins is much taller than Stockton, and he is a strong ball handler which the Zags could really use this year.
Sam Dower Jr.
Dower led the team in rebounds in the 2013-2014 season with an average of 7.2 rebounds per game. His rebounds were clean and he knew how to go back up with it after. Sam’s tenacity will be missed, but Domantas Sabonis might have the ability to fill the void that Sam left.
Sabonis has been playing professionally in Europe for a few years, and he was chosen to represent Lithuania last year in the 2013 FIBA Europe Under – 18 Championship where Sabonis averaged 11.4 rebounds per game. He was the tournament leader for rebounds that year.
Dower also had a few games this year where his free throw shooting saved the team from a loss. During the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas on March 8, 2014, the Zags took on Santa Clara and struggled. The Zags won the game 77-75, and were saved by Dower’s perfect free throw shooting night. Dower shot 15 for 15 that night, and is now part of a three way tie for the highest free throw shooting percentage in a game in Zag history.
Dower’s skill here is a hard one to beat, but Kyle Wiltjer has the possibility of shining in this realm. Although Wiltjer did not play the entire game when he was a University of Kentucky Wildcat, he did manage to keep a strong free throw percentage of 81% for the 2012-2013 season. Dower shot 82.5% during the 2013-2014 season. Dower did go to the line more often than Wiltjer, but Wiltjer’s percentage shows promise for the Zags.
Dower will also be missed for his ability to play in stressful situations. Dower was the clutch player for the Zags in three instances this past season. The most memorable moment was during the Zags at Santa Clara game back in January. The Zags were struggling to keep up and with less than 5 seconds to go and down 51-52 things were looking dark. Sam Dower got the ball and took a chance on a three and it swished. He saved the Zags in that moment, and they ended up winning 54-52. It is impossible to guess who will be Gonzaga’s next clutch player, but Zag fans must hope that the player can be just like Dower.