With basketball season lurking so distantly in the colder months of the year, the only item of hope that can be brought to basketball fans during the off-season is the news and constant predictions about the players that will be introduced to our teams. Whether they’re transfers, freshmen or walk-ons, a new player adds a whole new set of strengths and possibility to the team. The vat of potential that comes with each new player is the kindling for the speculation that each basketball fan goes through before a new season.
For Gonzaga Basketball fans, the speculating, predicting and guessing is at an all-time high after the realization that four of our five starters aren’t returning next year. While the exits of Wiltjer, Sabonis, Dranginis and McClellan will leave a noticeable void in the team, there is no lack of hope as the names and profiles of the new recruits emerge, particularly the freshman. Gonzaga’s recruitment team has proven once again that the Zag magic doesn’t leave with the seniors, but grows as the rest of college basketball begins to catch wind of the incredible things going down in Zagville. Many have claimed this to be one of Gonzaga’s best recruiting years in a long time and predicted that it will be a surprising year. The following names are the newest, up-and-coming freshman at Gonzaga University, that are sure to make a dent in the program.
Out of all the recruits, Zach Collins seems to be one of the most esteemed. According to both Rivals and 24/7 Sports, Collins is a five-star recruit. He’s a 7 foot, McDonald’s All-American center from Las Vegas, Nevada that was pursued by schools like Arizona, San Diego State, New Mexico, Utah, California and many more. ESPN names him “one of the most improved big men in the country,” and will certainly help jump in and fill the big shoes of Domantas Sabonis. Like Sabonis, Collins doesn’t shy away from some contact down below, and has great close to mid-range shooting capabilities. Collins is going to be an incredible addition to our team and will likely bring on a whole new array of skill and potential to our group of Zags.
Norvell is a four-star recruit hailing from Chicago. He was pursued by schools like Florida St., Georgetown and Iowa St. before committing to Gonzaga. He’s a left-handed shooting guard that stands at 6 foot 4 inches. Norvell’s strengths stem from behind the 3-point line. He is an aggressive shooter with the ability to get them up under pressure. This will be a great investment in Gonzaga’s offense especially considering one of our best shooters, Kyle Wiltjer, has graduated and left for the Houston Rockets. He’s the #1 shooting guard in Illinois, and sure to be a key player for the Zags in the years to come.
Tillie is a French four-star recruit standing at 6’ 10’’. He was highlighted by ESPN as one among five best international players from the 2015-2016 season. Initially, California began to aggressively recruit him for his phenomenal offensive rebounding and overall athleticism, however, he appeared to keep his options open. He explored the campuses of Utah and Georgia Tech before landing on Gonzaga. “Killian is a dynamic athlete…once we get him in the weight room and work on his strength, he’ll be a very good player at the highest level,” says Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. Tommy Lloyd, the associate head coach, claims that his potential is “off the charts.” Tillie has proven that he has the potential to grow into an unstoppable forward with the right coaching.
Hachimura is yet another international freshman hailing from Japan. Scout tags him as a four-star recruit and ESPN calls him among the five best international players in the 2015-2016 season (just as Tillie was). He’s a forward that stands at 6 foot 8 inches. He is said to have incredible length, athleticism and shooting ability. After visiting and declining offers from Arizona, he signed the letter of intent to play at Gonzaga. His homeland is thrilled with this endeavor, so much so that the Japan Times named Gonzaga “the most prestigious college program a Japanese player will have ever suited up for.” Hachimura will provide some clutch shots and loads of potential to affect the team greatly.
Our final incoming freshman recruit goes by the name Jacob Larsen and comes from Copenhagen, Denmark. Larsen is a 6 foot 10 center/power forward that both Rivals and 24/7 Sports calls a four-star recruit. He’s a traditional center that has made some waves in Europe. He participated in the 2013 FIBA championship and averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. He declined offers from both Marquette and Maryland after visiting Gonzaga in October. Larsen is yet another promising prospect that will be sure to help fill the void that our seniors left behind. Head coach Mark Few claims that “Jacob has great size and is doing a great job continuing to develop. We can afford to be patient with him, and in the long run, we feel he is going to be an excellent player.”
Ava Joy Smith