Gonzaga Basketball: How Unsung Kelly Olynyk Became an Impact Player

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Gonzaga Basketball: How Unsung Kelly Olynyk Became an Impact Player
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Kelly Olynyk is now a complete player.

For Gonzaga basketball, the emergence of Kelly Olynyk after his redshirt season has been paramount to success.

First, let’s flashback to the 2010-11 season. 

Kelly Olynyk was coming off a disappointing freshman season.  He was a highly-touted seven footer who was seemingly allergic to the lane.

During his sophomore season, Olynyk lived on the perimeter, and he shot 44 percent from beyond the arc.

At this point in his career, Olynyk truly was a guard stuck in a center’s body. 

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Kelly Olynyk before his redshirt season. Mullet-less and skinnier

Due to an abundance of big men in the rotation and a timely concussion, Kelly Olynyk decided to redshirt during the 2011-12 season.

Olynyk spent the next season working on all the weaknesses in his game, but as he sat in his bow tie on the bench during games, you could see the desire in his eyes. 

Kelly Olynyk didn’t want to sit anymore.  He wanted to show what he could do.

One year later and Olynyk has certainly showed the benefit of his season off.

Olynyk entered this season as a physically changed player.  Besides his new signature mullet, Olynyk also boasts a much more filled out frame.

It is easy to see how hard Olynyk worked to add strength and quickness, and both of these attributes have helped him immensely this season.

Olynyk continued to improve his jump shooting, but he also added a tremendous back to the basket game.

Before he redshirted, Olynyk averaged 5.8 PPG and 3.8 RPG.  After his redshirt season, though, Olynyk is now averaging 14.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG.

He has clearly gained the trust of Mark Few who has placed him in the starting lineup of presumed starter Sam Dower.

This is because Kelly Olynyk 2.0 is the best of both worlds, and that makes him an anomaly for any defense in the country.

Let’s quickly recap the skills that Olynyk now boasts.  He is a three-point shooter, a back to the basket scorer, a mid-range fiend and a master of the face up game.

No matter what a defense throws at him, the big man out of Canada has the answer.  Olynyk can post up finesse big men and blow past bigger defenders.

More important than Olynyk’s improvement in his ability to score individually is his new role in the offense.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Olynyk is no longer afraid of the paint.

Olynyk opens up new avenues for Gonzaga to exploit defenses with.  Gonzaga loves to utilize Olynyk in the pick-and-roll game and the high-low offense.

In a pick-and-roll scenario, Olynyk can roll to the basket for a dunk, or pop out for an open jump shot.

Very few big men can do both.

One of the most exciting aspects of Gonzaga’s offense is that Olynyk’s ability to play on the perimeter allows the Zags to set up a high-low offense. 

In this scenario, Olynyk is able to use his passing ability to feed either Elias Harris or Przemek Karnowski in the post. 

Kelly Olynyk can definitely be used as a case study for how to best utilize a redshirt season.  He took stock of his weaknesses and spent his entire year off improving on them.

The final product of his efforts speaks for itself, and Olynyk’s play this season is certainly one of the reasons Gonzaga is on a roll.

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