Gonzaga Basketball: Way-Too-Early Grades for Bulldogs Starters

Hayden DeitrickFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

Gonzaga Basketball: Way-Too-Early Grades for Bulldogs Starters

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    Kevin Pangos and the Gonzaga starters are off to the races.
    Kevin Pangos and the Gonzaga starters are off to the races.William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Gonzaga basketball is off to a 3-0 start, and while they have lacked a true challenger, the majority of Bulldogs starters have shined.

    Yes, the sample size for these observations is incredibly small, and as such, the spectrum from good to bad is certainly polarized.

    That being said, it is never too early to take a look at how a team is performing, and Gonzaga is no exception.

Kevin Pangos

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    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Kevin Pangos has exuded a sense of calmness this season. 

    With David Stockton handling the ball and running the offense, Pangos has had the opportunity to run off more ball screens and try to find more shots.

    It is clear that this season, Pangos and the backcourt will be winning and losing games with their ability to score.

    This season, Pangos is averaging 16 points per game and nearly four assists per contest.  What is remarkable about this is the fact that while other Gonzaga guards are lighting it up from beyond the arc, Pangos, arguably Gonzaga’s best shooter, has struggled to find his rhythm at times.

    What speaks volumes for how Gonzaga plans to play this season is Pangos’ ability to continue to shoot, despite early struggles. 

    This team of guards has the confidence of the coaching staff, and it shows in the green light they have to fire away throughout the game.


    Grade: A-

Gary Bell Jr.

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    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Gary Bell Jr. has been on fire to begin the season. 

    He is shooting a blistering 63 percent from the field and 61.9 percent from beyond the arc.  It is clear that Bell Jr. has become a reliable scoring option for the Bulldogs.

    This is not surprising, having watched Bell Jr.’s role consistently evolve as he has matured in the Gonzaga program.

    Bell Jr. quickly established himself as one of the Bulldogs’ best defenders, and as such, he has never been expected to score in bunches.

    Watching Bell Jr.’s quick trigger this season has been a breath of fresh air.

    His high shooting percentages will obviously come down as the season continues, but if his intensity continues, he will be more valuable to this Bulldogs team than ever before.


    Grade: A

David Stockton

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    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Did you know that legendary point guard John Stockton attended Gonzaga, and now his son David is the starting point guard for the same team?

    If you have ever watched an ESPN broadcast of a Gonzaga basketball game, you are more than familiar with these facts.

    After a breakout year as a redshirt freshman, David Stockton seemed poised to lead this program; however, with the arrival of Kevin Pangos came less play time.

    This season—his final as a Zag—Stockton has been given the opportunity to start, and thus far, he has thrived as the floor general for this high-tempo offense.

    Stockton is averaging seven points and just more than four assists per game.

    What is remarkable about Stockton is that his assist count is not higher.  With a innate ability to run the offense and see passes before anyone else, Stockton is the grease that allows the Gonzaga offensive machine to run smoothly.

    If the Zags are going to succeed with its small-ball lineup, Stockton is going to have to lead this team and find more open shots for teammates.


    Grade: B+

Przemek Karnowski

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    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Przemek Karnowski has been a bit of a disappointment to begin this season.  Despite towering over smaller opponents, he has yet to dominate the paint.

    His 10 points per game average is a bit of a misnomer.  Last season, as a freshman new to the program, he absolutely dominated some of these smaller schools, with performances that included a 22-point game against Southern Utah and a 20-point game against South Dakota.

    Why, then, would he have more trouble this season, after a year in the program that saw him improve his game, court awareness and physicality?

    The biggest problem for Karnowski has been his inability to avoid foul trouble.  Through three games, Karnowski is averaging a foul every five minutes, and he has been a foul away from leaving the game twice.

    With such a dearth of frontcourt depth behind him, Karnwoski’s inability to stay on the floor could spell Gonzaga’s doom.


    Grade: B-

Sam Dower

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    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Having finally been given the chance to start, Sam Dower has been a stud for the Bulldogs this season.  

    Dower is averaging 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, and as one of just three Gonzaga big men, he has had to play a large share of minutes, even in contests that Gonzaga has dominated. 

    “I feel a lot more confident [starting] than I did coming off the bench,” Dower said in an Associated Press article that was published by The Washington Post. “When you start, you have to set the bar out there for the guys.”

    Dower’s ability to score in bunches, with his added responsibility of pulling down a team-leading amount of rebounds, speaks to the hard work he put in throughout the offseason.

    Moving forward, the team will need him to continue to show the leadership he has so far, as he sets the bar for his teammates.

    If Dower continues to play at the level he has been, he will be noticed on a national scale very quickly.


    Grade: A+