By ZIGGY GREEN
The greatest non-football news in the world today comes from the relative blue chip of the basketball world, Gonzaga. Their 96-71 win over the University of California, Los Angeles is a true statement of “it’s finally true!” Gonzaga, the underdogs did NOT come in downing 7-1 Chaminade after the Bulldogs took on and defeated a powerhouse Nebraska team in overtime.
These Zags, built with 1st team All-Americans Josh Perkins, Kyle Wiltjer, Silas Melson, Zach Collins and Kyle Wiltjer are here to stay. With the current recruiting class, the Zags could become No. 1 as soon as this season. They have become a force to be reckoned with in both the West Coast Conference and The Big West Conference. In the Big West, The N.C. State Wolfpack looks to have to hit their stride quickly. They will need outstanding effort to match the Zags in what could become a top five final for that conference and all those who follow basketball.
Gonzaga’s players took it upon themselves to become the next great generation of young greats. According to Luke Wittman, “We’ve always been a basketball family. We grew up together. Me and Silas, we were on the same travel team. Now going to Gino (Dillard) and Junior Dorn coming up and Zach Collins growing up. It’s a dream come true. I’m already a senior. It’s been cool.”
Wittman also commented on his high praise from legendary coach Hall of Famer Mark Few: “I didn’t think it was that good of a compliment. I have so much respect for him as a coach. He’s never thought I was worthy of playing against him in the playoffs. I was, like, Oh my God, I’m going to play against him. He’s a legend. I have respect for him from the jump. He will always think of me as one of his own kids.”
Anthony Brown had a solid 15 points and 6 rebounds to lead UCLA. It’s obvious that Brown was looking at his former starter, Aaron Holiday for an example in the post game. He said: “I noticed that Aaron got the ball early and you could see he was going to score. Aaron is the type of guy who’s got to have his team down on the court. (I) tried to get the ball to the weak side so Aaron could put the ball in the basket. I try to do the same thing.”
Holiday averaged 21.2 points per game last season, and this season he enters the year as a senior leader. His confidence was evident when he said: “My confidence is high right now. That’s what we’ve been working on. It’s game time, so you just have to have confidence. Even (over-confidence). You got to have confidence. I can do anything I want to with my team, so that’s the big thing right now.”
Holiday can move to point guard with Kris Wilkes, who averages 9.2 points per game last season. Coach Menanto said: “Kris is a guy that I really believe that can be really good. He has a chance to be a first team all-league player if he continues to grow.”
The Bruins also lost Bryce Alford, who averaged 13.9 points per game last season. Alford’s injury led to Antony Brown coming off the bench for 7.8 points per game last season. Wayne Selden, Jr. will take over as the starting point guard. The future looks bright for the Zags, when they play against their toughest opponents in West Coast Conference play starting on Jan. 6 against the Pac-12 favorite USC Trojans. If you are in the know, you know that Gonzaga is a strong West Coast Conference favorite to win both The West Coast Conference and The Big West Conference. Look for the Zags to be better each week and even better in March.
Wittman concluded: “I get butterflies and all of that kind of stuff when it comes time to play Gonzaga. They are so good. It’s just fun playing them. Especially this year. We’ve got to go and play them early.”
Ziggy Green is a full time basketball and basketball related contributor to Fox Sports and hosts a successful podcast called, On The Court with Ziggy Green. It is available everywhere at ZiggyGreen.net