September 17, 2014

Gonzaga, the Land of Giants: not just a recent trend

Gonzaga's Jean-Claude Lefebvre towers over vehicle

Lately, and it feels a bit odd for me to say this because GU has been known as "Guard U", but Gonzaga has become known for recruiting and acquiring international big men. I am talking about the 7' variety. Kelly Olynyk, Robert Sacre, Przemek Karnowski, and Domantas Sabonis setting the recent trend. (*editors note- Gonzaga's Will Foster not included in list as he was not an international recruit. He was from Bonny Lake, Wa. and stood 7'5 with shoes making him perhaps the largest Zag of all time. I say perhaps because Jean Claude was purported to be 7'4 w/out shoes by some.) 

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).


His career at GU was hampered due to knee injuries and he also became homesick. After his second season he went back to France. Jean-Claude was drafted #64 by the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers in 1960, becoming the first Frenchman ever drafted. He was hopeful of playing for his country in the Olympics but unfortunately, he contracted tuberculosis and was hospitalized. It also ended his chance to play in the NBA. 

He passed away in 1999. RIP big fella and thanks for anchoring the Zags... aka- BIGs U.


Photo: Courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives

* Gonzaga's senior guard Chuck Redmond stands next to Jean Claude in above pic. 


September 16, 2014

The Brodies-An Introduction

Some of our Zags having some fun and they can play waay above the rim...niice! This definitely is the most athletic team GU has ever fielded. The upcoming season promises to be a fun one!!~


September 7, 2014

NIT Season Tip-Off Field Set, Gonzaga with 4 Games



Among the major stories of Gonzaga's offseason was the headache of the NIT Season Tip-Off. We have been putting together a schedule tracker to record all of Gonzaga's 2014-15 games as we learn about them, but it has been difficult to do so with the undetermined state of the Nit Season Tip-Off. Gonzaga had been invited as a host for this annual multi-team tournament, but the organizers could not find the usual number of teams (16) for this event.

This week we finally received good news that Gonzaga would still be playing in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The tournament is set, the field contains 10 teams (2 of which are from the Division-2 level), and Gonzaga gained 3 more games to be broadcast on the ESPN networks. The Zags get 2 home games. The first home game is against the only other team in this event that played in the NCAA tournament last season (Saint Joseph's). The other home contest is against a Divison-2 opponent (St. Thomas Aquinas). The Zags also are guaranteed to play 2 games at Madison Square Garden in New York against participants of last year's NIT (Georgia and one of Minnesota or St. John's).

Here are the scheduled games for Gonzaga in this tournament (all times pacific):

Nov. 19: Saint Jospeh's @ Gonzaga (8:00 PM on ESPNU)

Nov. 22: St. Thomas Aquinas (D2) @ Gonzaga (Time & TV TBD)

Nov. 26: Gonzaga vs. Georgia @ Madison Square Garden in New York (6:30 PM on ESPN2)

Nov. 28: Gonzaga vs. Minnesota/St. John's @ Madison Square Garden in New York (1:30 PM on ESPNU or 4:00 PM on ESPN2)


If the Zags lose in the matchup against Georgia on Nov. 26, they would face the loser of the Minnesota/St. John's game on Nov. 28 at 1:30 PM on ESPNU. If the Zags win against Georgia, they would play the winner of the Minnesota/St.John's game at 4:00 PM on ESPN2.

Check out other games on Gonzaga's 2014-15 season schedule HERE.

August 26, 2014

The NIT Season Tip-Off still filled with issues



Gonzaga has been scheduled as a host in the 2014 NIT Season Tip-Off for a long time now, but even as the next season keeps approaching, this tournament still appears to be a complete mess.

It's been a while since an official source gave us an update on where the NIT Season Tip-Off stands. The last official update came on July 21, but that was discouraging news, as is the following news.

Below is a video released today (Aug. 26, 2014) from ESPN.com's Andy Katz telling us at the 1:50 mark that there is still an issue with how this multi-team tournament will be formatted. Will there still be 4 games for each team in the filed or will it be shortened? Will more teams be added to the field, and if so, will all those added teams be at the D1 level?



Here's a written transcript for what Andy Katz says in the video:

The NIT, the Season Tip-Off, the Preseason, as it used to be called, but the NIT Season Tip-Off still wrestling this week on what to do with its format with only 8 teams.

The 8 schools still don't know if they're going to get 4 games out of this, if there is gonna be 2 games at a neutral court at Madison Square Garden.

The coaches telling me that they're still wondering and waiting to find out hopefully later this week.

Phil Martelli, St. Joes, is one of the 4 schools that is not a host. The 4 hosts are Gonzaga, Georgia, St. John's, and Minnesota.

Martelli telling me that one scenario he was told is that these 4 schools that aren't the hosts would get 1 home game, they would get 1 road game, they would play 1 game at Madison Square Garden, and then they may play a game against a non-Division 1 to fill it out to get the 4 games they normally get with the NIT Season Tip-Off.


August 21, 2014

Gonzaga’s 2014 Edition-What’s in the Tank: Gary Bell Jr.


Gary Bell Jr. was a hot commodity coming out of High School. He was rated #53 on ESPN’s Super 60 list. A lot of colleges were vying for his talents, including Gonzaga’s head Coach Mark Few, who had been recruiting him for a long time. Few won the recruiting battle, but it wasn’t easy.

Some say that the hiring of Coach Donny Daniels played a part in Gary’s decision, but speculation aside, we do know that Coach Few told him he would “put the ball in his hands.”

Coach Few kept his promise, and Gary was very productive in his first six games as a freshman coming off the bench. That led to a start against Michigan State and he never looked back.

Over the next three years he has been instrumental in Gonzaga’s continued success. He also has quietly gotten better in several key statistical categories along the way. Last season he had career highs in rebounds, steals, field goal %, and points, averaging 11.0 per game. Additionally, he was once again deadly as a deep sniper, torching the nets at 43%.

What makes this impressive is that he has also been the Zag’s lock-down defensive specialist. He has been called upon night in and night out to stalk and otherwise harass opponent’s best players. That expends a lot of extra energy.

But what makes this even more impressive is that frequently he has been fighting though some kind of injury. Be it a broken hand, or an injured foot, or knee surgery. It seems like he is rarely playing at 100% for long, yet he still gets it done. 

Bell is now a polished veteran with one more chance to put it together. He has a multitude of skills along with his experience. If he can remain healthy, he should have his best season yet which will hopefully help propel the Zags deep into the NCAA Tourney.

August 18, 2014

Former Zag Star Kelly Olynyk takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Former Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. He does it a little different than every one else has been doing it...But you'll have to watch to see exactly how. Lol! http://instagram.com/p/r21VFLgcp1/

August 17, 2014

Gonzaga’s 2014 Edition- What’s in the Tank: Kevin Pangos

One of the reasons, and there are many, that the 2014 edition of the Gonzaga Bulldogs may finally return to the Elite 8, or even beyond, is Kevin Pangos.

It has been said that for a team to be elite, it needs a point guard with experience. Pangos is entering his final year as a senior. Not only that, but he has been a starter since coming off the bench during the first game of his collegiate career as a freshman. He has been tested by fire in many preseason, WCC, and NCAA tournaments. He has fought the wars and survived boisterous, hostile crowds. He has the experience.

The team rallies around Pangos. He exudes confidence on the floor and is very vocal. He wills his team to find a way and they almost always do. Teammates look to Kevin during times of struggle, oftentimes passing up good looks while deferring to him. Kevin leads, and players follow.

Pangos is driven, beyond what most would consider normal. He is relentless in his quest to better his game. What he lacks in size and length, he makes up in determination and preparation. If he is not lifting weights, or practicing in the gym, he is almost always on his way there, or thinking about it. I have seen him in the Kennel all by himself, deep into the night, dribbling two balls up and down the court. Setting up a bit trap net and working on the arc of his shot, fine tuning the subtleties of his game. He puts in 1000s of hours perfecting his craft. No one has more drive and determination than Kevin.

Elite teams need someone who can shoot from deep and count on in crunch time to hit foul shots. Pangos can do both. He is an assassin from three, draining 41.2% as a junior. I remember when he hit 9 of them in his very first start vs. WSU at the Kennel in ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-off. Because of the show he put on, he was trending worldwide afterwards on Twitter!

Also, he is deadly at the charity stripe, leading the team at the line while hitting 87.3% last season. When its money-time and the game is on the line, players get the ball to Pangos because he drives and gets fouled. He puts games away at the line.

We believe the only thing that could possibly stop Pangos from having his best year yet is injury. He was not himself this past season as he was hampered most of the year with turf toe, as well as a severely sprained ankle. He has had the off-season to put his body back together, get the rest he needed in order to heal, and work on his game. With that said, we look for Pangos to explode during his senior campaign and lead Gonzaga back to the Elite 8.

Follow us on Twitter- @zagaholic

August 11, 2014

Former Gonzaga Star Sam Dower headed for France

Sam Dower will be taking his talents to play pro ball in France. He had NBA pre-draft workouts with 10 different teams, but unfortunately didn't get drafted.

His goal is to eventually play in the NBA and his contract to play in France is a stepping stone towards that goal. We'll keep you updated in his progress. Go Sammy D!

July 21, 2014

Zagaholic at Zags Scrimmage: what we saw


We finally had a chance to make it down to our first off-season Gonzaga scrimmage this summer. Read on for highlights followed by pictures.

The men usually scrimmage after the kid camps end at about 10 p.m. and go at it hard for an hour. Entrance is gained by entering at the South/West side of the old Martin Center. Once inside, take a right and follow the signs all the way to the Kennel. It’s free of charge and anyone can attend. There is plenty of seating. I would estimate that about 200 or so spectators attended, so there is plenty of choice seating. It’s a great way to get a glimpse at the newbie’s, as well as some former players.

Teams consist of 5 players, one with shirts, and one with skins. They play for approx 10 minutes and then substitutions are made. There is no scoring, referees, or coaches, so it’s pretty much a free for all. Several “fill-in” players were needed to make the teams. I have no idea who they were.

There were some disappointments as well as pleasant surprises. The disappointments were that a lot of the players we hoped to get a look at were not in attendance. Kyle Wiltjer, Silas Melson and Sabonis were absent. So were Karnowski, Dranginis, Wesley, and McClellan. This really was a bummer as we wanted to see all the new guys in action, as well as get a feel for any improvement with the bigs, Wiltjer and Karnowski.

That being said, let’s get into highlights of what we saw:

Gary Bell- was a DNP. He sat on the sidelines watching, holding a basketball. Oddly enough, I remember this exact scenario last summer, as he was injured then as well. He is not 100% yet from his knee injury/surgery, but expects to be 100% by the start of the season.

Kevin Pangos- All indications are that he is good to go. We watched very carefully. No signs of any residual injury with his ankle or turf toe. No hesitation as he planted, pushed off and cut. As always, he was money from deep. He hit aprox. 5/7 from the NBA three point line and also looked great in his mid-range game, scoring floaters at will and taking it to the hole.

Ryan Edwards- I have to be honest, he looked terrible. Slow down the court and pushed around in the paint. His body language was awful. He was frustrated at his play, as well he should have been. No footwork, no energy, and he missed a lot of forced shots. He could really use a redshirt year. He has soft hands, size, and is money from the free throw line, but he needs some work. I still feel he can become a very good player down the line.

Josh Perkins- Wow. Very skilled and looks D-1 ready. No look passes, behind the back and head. I’d buy a ticket just to watch this guy pass. He is something special. Great handles all around. Athletic and fast, with good breakaway speed and good size. If his shots aren’t falling (he hit about ½ his shots) he can take it strong to the hole, play above the rim and finish.