On Saturday afternoon, mere minutes after the Seattle Mariners completed one of the most improbable comebacks in playoff baseball history, the 2022-23 Gonzaga Bulldogs took the court at the McCarthey Athletic Center for the first time in front of a packed house.
This year’s Kraziness in the Kennel did not feature a dunk contest, as has been a staple in the past, but there was still a skills challenge (won by Julian Strawther) and three-point shootout (won by Rasir Bolton) and a 20 minute scrimmage for fans to see this unit in action.
While it’s hard to glean too much from a scrimmage clearly designed as a fan spectacle rather than a serious practice, it’s always good to see how guys look after a summer away from the team. Hearing from the coaches, including Mark Few and Brian Michaelson, is helpful as well as it gives some clues about how guys might be deployed this upcoming year.
Taking any serious analysis with a grain of salt, these were my five takeaways from the 20 minute scrimmage. Audio analysis is available at Locked on Zags, with a link to the episode below:
Ben Gregg is going to have a role this season
‘Coach-speak’ is a term used often by reporters to see through the BS coaches say that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. When coaches are specifically asked about players, often a mundane, predictable answer is labeled ‘coach-speak’.
However, when coaches go out of their way to praise a player, it’s often worth paying attention to. Brian Michaelson raved about the work Ben Gregg put in this offseason, getting faster, stronger, and bigger while elevating his game offensively and defensively.
It’s hard to see an obvious role for Gregg this year, with Drew Timme, Anton Watson, and Efton Reid soaking up most of the minutes up front, and Julian Strawther likely playing the four. However, Michaelson made it clear he has taken big strides, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former top-90 recruit start to make waves this season.
Colby Brooks looks like a potential contributor
I’d be very surprised if we see Colby Brooks play any minutes before the final ten minutes of a game this season, but his performance on Saturday is worth mentioning. Brooks drew the start for the White team opposite Julian Strawther, playing all 20 minutes and scoring eight points with three rebounds and an assist. He was a perfect 3-3 from the field.
Brooks is not your typical Gonzaga walk-on, playing AAU ball in the Los Angeles area and putting together a decorated high school career. He’s been on the bench for each of the past two years, giving way to Will Graves and Matthew Lang, but now it is his turn to play toward the end of Gonzaga blowouts – and I think people will like what they see.
Drew Timme added to his bag
Timme only played 12 minutes during Kraziness, but he managed nine points on 4-5 shooting, including 1-2 from deep. Hitting his first three was certainly a welcome sight for Gonzaga fans (and NBA draft analysts) who have been hoping to see that element of his game.
Beyond that, Timme displayed a nice array of post moves, including a step-back on the block, where he nailed a contested jumper over the very large Efton Reid. Timme’s footwork around the rim has always been spectacular, but if he now has a consistent midrange game – with the kind of footwork necessary to get his shot off – he’s going to be even more dangerous.
And if that three point shot is here to stay, look out.
Nolan Hickman’s outside shot is much improved
Hickman dropped 11 points in about 19 minutes of action on Saturday, second only to Strawther for either side. He went 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from deep, tacking on an assist and a steal for good measure.
Hickman is a crucial hinge for this program’s success this season, and if he is able to be a reliable knockdown shooter and distributor this team has a sky-high ceiling. Saturday’s showing was a good start.
Braden Huff isn’t ready (and that’s okay)
Gonzaga only had one scholarship freshman getting his first opportunity to don a Gonzaga uniform in the Kennel, forward Braden Huff.
Huff participated in the skills competition but struggled to knock down both the free throw and the three point shot. Putting that performance aside, Huff also played just about half the scrimmage game, but went 0-1 from the field and 0-2 from the free throw line. He did pick up three rebounds, a block, and a steal, while also turning the ball over twice.
Huff is not going to be asked to contribute much this season, we knew that long before this scrimmage took place. With Ben Gregg seeming to solidify himself as the fourth big (not counting Strawther) it pushes Kaden Perry into the No. 5 role and Huff all the way down at six, where most of his minutes will come in garbage time if he does not redshirt entirely.
None of this is alarming, or particularly surprising, as Huff is seen as a development piece in a system that develops bigs as good or better than any other team in the country. Huff will have to wait his turn, but the payoff could be huge.
Host – Locked on Zags Podcast
Writer – Ducks Wire