Confirming the belief held by many, Gonzaga coach Mark Few told CBS’ Jon Rothstein that Julian Strawther will be deployed in a small-ball four role this season.
It will be reminiscent of how Corey Kispert, another 6’7 wing with perimeter skills, was used in 20-21 when the Zags rolled all the way into the national championship game with an undefeated record.
Kispert had far and away the most productive season of his collegiate career in this role, averaging 18.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 62.8% on twos, 44% from deep, and 87.8% from the free throw line.
The transition to a frontcourt role saw Kispert’s rebounding numbers increase 25%, while his efficiency around the rim improved considerably, as did his number of free throw attempts.
Strawther is already a better rebounder than Kispert, averaging 5.4 boards per game last year in more of a perimeter role. He only averaged 2.4 free throw attempts per game last year, nearly mirroring the 2.5 FTA Kispert averaged in 19-20, the year before he stepped into his new role.
If Strawther can take similar production jumps as Kispert, we should see him taking closer to three free throw attempts per game, while grabbing more rebounds and finishing more efficiently around the rim – something he was already excellent at as a sophomore in 21-22.
A 4.7 points per game jump, like Kispert had, would put Strawther at 16.5 points per game. That should get him selected in the first round – especially if his advanced numbers (and defense) improve as well.
For the Zags, this move allows them to start a three-guard lineup, creating difficult mismatches for opposing teams and fostering a high-octane, transition offense.
Some combination of Nolan Hickman, Malachi Smith, Rasir Bolton, and Hunter Sallis will join Strawther and Drew Timme in the frontcourt, with Dominick Harris joining the rotation when he is fully healthy.
Anton Watson and Efton Reid will serve as the primary backups to Strawther and Timme, with Ben Gregg and Kaden Perry in tow as well.
Gonzaga’s new lineup should be on display on Friday evening against the Tennessee Volunteers in an exhibition match available on Pay-Per-View.
Andy hosts the Locked on Zags and Locked on College Basketball podcasts, and serves Locked On in a marketing/digital content creator role as well. He lives just outside Portland with his wife Jenna and dog, Tillie.