Getting past the Bulldogs will be a tall order, but it's the little guy who is key to the season
If the Bulldogs can't parlay their added depth, height and versatility into an eighth straight West Coast Conference regular-season title and an extended run in the NCAA tournament next spring, at least they'll have this going for them: "Walking through an airport, we'll definitely look like a Division I team," says coach Mark Few. "I'm not sure you could say that about us at the end of last year."
The lineup that lost to Indiana in the first round of the NCAAs last season was short on personnel and stature without 6' 11", 238-pound junior forward Josh Heytvelt, the team's leading rebounder (7.7) and second-leading scorer (15.5), and 6' 9" redshirt freshman Theo Davis. Both were arrested for drug possession on Feb. 9 and suspended from the team. But after completing 300 days of community service and apologizing to coaches and teammates, they've been reinstated and join five other players who are at least 6' 8".
The tall timber up front also includes two of the four newcomers who make up Gonzaga's first nationally ranked recruiting class: freshmen Austin Daye of Irvine, Calif., a 6' 10" forward who averaged 30.9 points last season, and Robert Sacre of Vancouver, a 7-foot center who averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds a game. "There's a battle for the four and five spots, and that's been fun to watch," says senior guard David Pendergraft. "There have been a few black eyes, but everyone is getting tough."
The Zags are thin only at point guard, but starter Jeremy Pargo is durable (he hasn't missed so much as a practice in more than two years) and polished, having spent the summer working on his shot and playmaking (he got tips from his brother, New Orleans Hornets guard Jannero Pargo, and at camps run by LeBron James and Steve Nash). "I wanted to get confidence in my shot," says Pargo. "I feel like I'm a pretty good shooter, though a lot of people don't realize it because I haven't taken some of the shots they think I should take."
Don't expect him to start raining threes and jumpers just to prove he can shoot, however. "When I get that open jump shot, knocking it down will help this team win," he says. "If I don't have to take one shot for my team to win, I'll be fine with that too." -- Kelli Anderson
Issue date: November 19, 2007