November 8, 2013

Gonzaga 2013-14 Season Preview: Leaders Needed, Apply Inside.

Recently, I had a chance to listen to an interview with Mark Few regarding the upcoming season.  The questions was put to him: "Who steps up this year, who will be the leader for this team? "  To this, the coach replied that while the leadership of Kelly,Harris and Hart will all be missed, he feels the team still has leaders and will do so by committee.  In keeping with this assertion as well as staying in line with, what I see to be the very accurate insight of the Head coach, I give you my version of a this years season preview.

Leadership and Success, by Committee:

We all know Kelly, Elias and Mike have all moved on, with both Kelly and E now playing in the NBA for two historic clubs in the Celtics and Lakers. Mike Hart, of course graduated and left maybe the largest void that will need to be filled this year.  In short, Leadership.  We could bandi back and forth the meaning, value or even existence of such a trait as it pertains to sports or groups in general but I decline to go down that road.  Leadership as it pertains to this article and my assertion, is the determination by a given player to consistently execute their role, encourage others to execute in theirs and to step beyond just perfunctory means and methods to do so.

And so, we start with Sam Dower and the need for him to be a leader along with a couple others this year. Admittedly, I have been on the Sam Dower bandwagon going on nigh four years now.  In fact, I wrote and posted on this very site, a write up on Dower and his ability to not only fill the void left by Robert Sacre, but to dramatically improve upon and eclipse Rob's contributions to the team.  As we all know, last year this assertion and proclamation did not pan out in the least.  Certainly there were games in which Sam played well but he fell far short of my prognostication and high hopes for an outstanding performance.  Of course, it is difficult to fault Sam as it is quite difficult to score, rebound, block out, and play defense with your keister firmly planted on a pine bench!  As we all know, it was not Sam's lack of ability that kept him riding pine, rather it was a product of the emergence of  Mr. Kelly Olynyk as well as a renaissance-esqe Senior season for Elias Harris.  It was both Kelly and E, along with the vastly unappreciated play of Mike Hart, that once again, relegated Sam to play the part of "the shrub in the school play" while these three each took center stage and starring roles, in what was to be a historic and dramatic season for the program.

 I specifically start with Sam for a couple reasons.  First and foremost is the large hole in the front court that must be filled with the exit of Olynyk, Harris and Hart.  Second, Sam posses a few elements and opportunities his teammates do not. The most prominent being this is Sam's fifth year in the program.  No one on the team should be better versed in the M.O. of the staff, the culture of the program, or the defined goals and intents of the team.  Secondly, in the past Sam has not shown resilience to adversity and has allowed attitude to affect his altitude on the court. As the fifth year senior and likely starting PF, he must not allow adversity to derail a commitment to consistently execute, encourage others in, and exceed his defined role on the team.  From what I have seen, Sam has grown into a player that can and will provide this type of consistent leadership throughout the year.  Look for Sam to make a large jump in minutes, points, rebounds, over all defensive acumen and be the leader this team will need and come to rely on.

Second chair on the "GU Leadership Committee" is, of course the floor general, Junior PG Kevin Pangos.  Kevin came into the program with very high hopes and has for the most part lived up to them.  I believe the turning point in the consciousness of most GU fans and basketball fans in general was the game against Ohio State that pitted a young Pangos against one of the top 3 point guards in CBB, Aaron Craft.  Aaron is an elite defender and opportunistic scorer and he took it to the young freshman point guard.  Many saw this as Pangos being exposed and possibly over-hyped.  To the casual fan, I am certain this topic could be debated ad-nauseum and some valid points could be derived, however it would have little impact on the reality of the situation.  In the end, this game was a crucial, teaching moment for Kevin, in which he learned there is another level of toughness and leadership that is achievable if you are willing to pay the price to reach it.  As a Sophomore, Kevin did lead but his efforts often were overshadowed by all the talk of Kelly and the "best GU back-court" ever being credited as the main driver of their success.  This year Kevin will need to execute night in and night out in a multi-faceted way.  This means that if his shooting woes on the road rear their ugly head, he must cut down on hoisting up shots and work to create and find the open, hot hand.  In addition, he must spend the time on the floor being aggressive and not fading to the background, particularly on the defensive end.  One of the costliest habits he has displayed is poor effort on switches as well as following his man on back cuts, leading to help side D that often leads to foul trouble.  With the thin front-court depth, GU's big's will not be able to absorb a high number of fouls.  Kevin will need to lead himself and fellow back court teammates to execute on the defensive end as well as the offensive.

The third and final Committee Member that must step up and be a leader is Junior SG, Gary Bell Jr.  This is the year he must make the leap in all aspects of his game but none more important than his aggression level.  In short, Gary needs to get nasty and play with some fire throughout the entire time he is on the court.  Too often, he has faded to the back and not asserted himself as he can.  This team will need his experience and offensive prowess if they are to have an level of success against those more athletic and fundamentally sound defensive teams.  Gary can execute with the best of them, but as I stated in my definition of leadership, it must be consistent execution coupled with the willingness to take his game to another level when his team needs him to do so.

All in all this season looks to be a very interesting one indeed! With addition of very talented transfers Gerard Coleman & Angel Nunez, the development and improvement of  Karnowski and Dranginis coupled with the experience and leadership from Dower, Pangos and Bell; Gonzaga will step out from the shadow of a season that saw them achieve their first ever #1 ranking.  I am confident that, once again, this time by committee, the Zags will be a major player in college basketball and a legitimate threat to go deep into the tourney!



quidveritas said...


Does this team need leadership???

The only guy that may not be a leader in the top 7-8 players might be Karnowski.

Frankly a couple of those walk-ons play with some serious attitude.

No want of leadership on this team. None at all.

Matt said...

Did you read the article?

"To this, the coach replied that while the leadership of Kelly,Harris and Hart will all be missed, he feels the team still has leaders and will do so by committee."

I didn't say there was a lack of leaders I said leadership on multiple fronts will be key.

Attitude and leadership are not even the same thing.

thanks for the "comment"

quidveritas said...

"Attitude and leadership are not even the same thing."

I would respectfully disagree. While not all attitude constitutes leadership, it takes a certain amount of attitude to be a leader.

I hate to get ahead of the game here, but a couple of those freshman walk-ons are going to be starters and team leaders in the not too distant future (Maybe not at GU . . . then again, I like what I have seen so far a great deal -- these guys have way more panache than many of our 'scholarship players' of the recent past). Do not forget, you don't even have to get on the floor sometimes to be a leader at GU. Michelson [?sp] is a very good example.

wesolint said...


wesolint said...

No mention of David Stockton?

Crash Mathews said...

My biggest issue with Dower is that i don't think he has those leadership qualities