Gonzaga Eagles: Team Preview
This week, I was fortunate enough to add another prestigious stop to my preseason open gym tour. I took a trip out to Eye Street to get a good look at this year’s Gonzaga Eagles. It was my first time attending a Gonzaga preseason workout—the staff, environment, players and culture lives up to the hype and legacy. The players scrimmaged competitively for nearly two hours and everyone was leaving it all out on the court, on both ends.
Last year, the Eagles battled through injuries and some inexperience with a mostly young team, but still found a way to put themselves in a position to compete to win the WCAC Championship. For those who don’t remember, the Eagles were down one with the ball, but couldn’t convert, leading to DeMatha’s first championship since 2011, and crushing Gonzaga’s dreams of going back to back. Despite the huge loss of Myles Dread, Gonzaga returns most of its core from last year’s championship run. Due to last year’s injuries, Coach Steve Turner said, “ Some of the young guys had to step up and that will help us this year.” Everyone in Gonzaga’s rotation has seen meaningful minutes, and that is a huge part of what makes them so dangerous. Their mismatches on the offensive end are another issue for the competition. According to Coach Turner, “No one in the [WCAC] has two people that can match up with Terrance [Williams] and [Myles] Stute.” The pair of 2020 swingmen are going to be a nightmare for opponents. Both are listed at around 6’6” and are extremely active on the glass, so you can’t outmuscle them. Both are lights out from three, so it will force opposing big men to close out at the three point line. And, you can’t be too aggressive on your close out, because both have the ability to put the ball on the deck and put you on a poster. The Eagles are one of the scariest opponents in the entire nation, and here are some players you should keep an eye on.
The junior point guard has visibly made improvements to his game since last year, and it looks like Harris is ready to have a big year as the catalyst of this Gonzaga offense. He is a high IQ player who always is in control of his tempo, Harris was also really impressive in the open gym making reads off of pick and rolls. He looks a lot more comfortable and confident creating his own shot than he did a year ago and that will take his game to the next level. The WCAC is full of really good point guards so Harris will have his work cut out for him every night, but I think he’s more than ready.
The departure of Myles Dread directly impacts Josh Watts the most. Although those are very big shoes to fill, I think Watts has the qualities to be a very impactful two-way shot maker for the Eagles. He brings a great competitive edge to the hardwood and his leadership presence will be key to the Eagles success.
The junior guard was a pleasant surprise during the open gym. Jackson can do it all on both ends and brings a unique flare to the game. He is very competitive, and when asked how he thought his teammates would describe him, Jackson said “Hype.”
The sophomore combo guard will have to make the biggest leap in production if the Eagles want to sustain their success. After playing role player minutes as a freshman last year, Dread will be relied on to play a pivotal role for Gonzaga. He is very crafty around the rim and uses his athleticism to get to his spots.
As I have talked about before, Williams is an absolute matchup nightmare. He will most likely be the focal point of the Eagles offense because of his versatility and ability to stretch the floor. Williams definitely improved his ball handling, as he looks a lot more comfortable putting the ball on the deck to drive and shooting the ball off the dribble. Expect him to be a force in the WCAC all year long.
Listed at 6’7” with his shooting capabilities, Stute is going to cause a lot of problems for opponents this season. He was worked very hard at expanding his game, his finishing is much more consistent and he has a much tighter handle. Stute brings a ton of energy to the game and is fearless when he steps in between the lines.
In a year where the WCAC is completely up for grabs, expect the Gonzaga Eagles to be in the hunt come February. Some players on this team have experienced the thrill of hoisting the trophy, some have experienced the heartbreak of losing in the final seconds, and some have experienced both. They are no longer the new kids on the block. The Eagles are ready to claim what they feel is theirs, the WCAC Championship.