A new era in Spokane begins now. Mark Few and Gonzaga Basketball enter the season with high expectations per usual, but without the given answers that many fans and national onlookers have grown accustomed to over the last four seasons, namely, Drew Timme.
After breaking the school’s all-time scoring record and putting up monstrous figures in the regular season and March, Timme opted to move on and begin his professional career. The Texas big had the 27th-highest possession percentage in college basketball, serving as the hub of Few’s offense. The decision vacates Gonzaga’s not just in points (21.2 per game), but also rebounds (7.5 per game) and assists (3.2 per game).
And Timme isn’t the only notable piece that departed at the end of last spring. Julian Strawther, Gonzaga’s leading three-point shooter and scoring option in the backcourt and lead bench scorer, Malachi Smith, opted to go pro. Starting guard Rasir Bolton ran out of eligibility. Key bench piece and former five-star recruit Hunter Sallis transferred to Wake Forest and big man Efton Reid joined him after one year in Spokane, with Dominick Harris departing for Loyola Marymount for a fresh start.
That leaves Gonzaga without seven of their 10 top-minute earners last season and five of their eight rotational pieces. But the cupboard is never truly bare for this program as the Zags had two freshmen on the bench preparing for their opportunity in Braden Huff and Jun Seok Yeo, who joined the program midway into their season.
The Zags cashed their commitment from Dusty Stromer as he joined the team this year as the sole addition from the domestic recruiting trail but added more international talent with signings of Croatia’s Luka Krajnovic and Serbia’s Pavle Stosic.
But where the Zags really added to their roster was once again from the transfer portal. The two biggest acquisitions this summer throughout college basketball were Creighton point guard Ryan Nembhard and Wyoming post player Graham Ike picking Gonzaga. To help replace the loss of upperclassmen, the staff also landed the transfer commitment of EWU’s Steele Venters, who won Big Sky Most Valuable Player last season.
That’s eight new potential minutes earners headed into the season with the returnees of senior Anton Watson and juniors Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg. It’s a lot of moving pieces but with clear impactful skillsets. How will they come together? Is it enough to add to their streak of eight consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances?