With what felt almost like a paradigm shift in recruiting, I became curious; was this simply a recent trend, or had there been others? To my surprise, it turns out the Zags first landed a behemoth basketball player over a half century ago. His name was Jean-Claude Lefebvre. He stood 7'3 (some say 7'4) without shoes and weighed in at 280 lbs. This was in 1957. At that time he was the largest college basketball player in the world. The average height of a man then in France was 5'5 so his kind of size was very rare.
Born in France, he didn't like basketball as it was considered a tall man's game and he was not a fan of his own height. He resisted efforts by many to play the game. Eventually he relented and played two very successful years for the French National Team. During this time he caught the attention of Whitworth Coach James McGregor who recommended him to Gonzaga. Jean signed with Gonzaga in 1957 and the city was buzzing with anticipation. The local Spokane newspaper, the Spokesman Review, even ran a headline declaring "Gonzaga Snags Giant."
Jean-Claude had a huge appetite and was known for having, among other things, three milk shakes and one and a half gallons of orange juice per day. He was so big that special beds had to be made for him at Gonzaga as well as specially made shoes. The largest athletic shoes available at the time were size 17. Those were made for the gigantic professional heavyweight boxer named Primo Carnera. The problem was that Jean-Claude needed size 21s, so they had to rush order custom ones!
In his first game as a Zag he scored 50 points vs Whitworth College. Once a giant cardboard cutout was even used (a likeness of Jean) to assist Idaho College in preparation for shooting higher against the Zag's French Giant. It was held up by their diminutive assistant coach (see picture below).