Whitman County Gazette 

Good news for Zags fans


There was some good news that we heard last week if you happen to be a Gonzaga fan. Three starters are returning to Spokane to play for the 2022-23 Bulldogs basketball team.

Rashir Bolton, Julian Strawther and Drew Timme will be wearing a Gonzaga basketball uniform again next season.

Originally, all five starters declared for the NBA draft; they had until June 1 to decide if their name was going to be submitted.

I’m sure they found out where they might be picked and who had the most interest.

For these three guys, it was a great choice to return for another year. They can work on their 3-point shots and just get stronger and maybe have a few breakout games that intrigue NBA scouts.

Two other Zags’ starters entered the draft.

Point guard Andrew Nembhard and potential No. 1 pick Chet Holmgren will be playing professionally next season.

Where they will be playing next season will be made in a couple of weeks at the NBA draft.

I know that a lot of people think Holmgren should come back and bulk up and get stronger and improve his 3-pointers. But when the NBA declares you are one of the Top 5 picks, the guaranteed money makes a young man think he can always get stronger on the NBA dime.

I believe that there is no experience better than the college experience. But I’m not 7-foot-1 and able to dunk. I hope he makes the most of this golden opportunity and spends his money wisely.

Despite the draft, the Bulldogs will be loaded next season with two transfers and the three returning starters. Minutes are going to be tough to come by for players, but then with this much talent, the depth is going to be unbelievable.

It has been said that some of the best recruiting is maintaining the talent that is already there. These three guys are smart and know what kind of season this could be.

Bolton had transferred a couple of times before coming to Gonzaga and has really enjoyed being a part of the Spokane community and Gonzaga.

Strawther had a deal for his name, image and likeness in the Spokane area as did Drew Timme. So they will be able to make a few bucks during their down time and most likely get to see those commercials during Gonzaga games.

Gonzaga will pick up Southern Conference Player of the Year Malachi Smith, a 6-foot-4 guard from Chattanooga, and Efton Reid, a 7-foot post player from LSU. Both of these guys were 5-star recruits out of high school.

I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict how they will fit into Mark Few’s plans or rotation. But with the success Few has had in the past 10 years, I’m sure he’ll figure it out and there will be another quality Zags team playing deep into the NCAA tournament.

For many of the transfers that Gonzaga has gotten over the years they have seen the player development in skill and strength. Most everyone relates the biggest change in a gangly 7-footer by the name of Kelly Olynk, who red-shirted after his sophomore year and after a year training hiatus became an All-American his junior year and a first round draft pick that same year.

Malachi Smith wants to play for a Hall of Fame Coach.

Reid decided to leave LSU after his coach Will Wade was fired. I’m thinking that Reid will have a bigger role offensively than he had at LSU. He does have the ability to block shots that will be missed with the departure of Holmgren. And Reid has about 45 pounds on Holmgren which is a good thing.

Gonzaga staff will need to figure out how to make some talented players happy with playing time. Knowing this, the players are going to have to impress in practice and to have quality minutes during game time.

It’s a challenge, but you would much rather have too much talent than not enough.

— Dale Anderson is a sports columnist from Ritzville. Email him at [email protected].


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