Gonzaga's Top Guards from the "Decade of Excellence"
Before the University of Gongaza's incredible run to the Elite Eight in 1999, the Zags lone claim to fame was producing NBA Hall-of-Fame point guard John Stockton.
The all-time assists and steals leader, Stockton is the greatest “pure” point guard in NBA history, because of his ability to adjust on the fly, drop a pass on a dime, and outsmart any opponent.
Now, Stockton is the standard for any guard that comes to GU, or should I say “Guard U.”
During the last decade of Zags basketball, a.k.a. “The Decade of Excellence,” the hoops team has employed a system that depends on a point guard, who can be a “field general” and make proper decisions in real time.
Every year, Gonzaga makes a run up the national polls and deep into the NCAA tournament due to great guard play—a streak that could be broken this year as Demetri Goodson is mired in a sophomore slump.
In honor of the past decade, I’m ranking the best point-combo guards that have played for Mark Few on what is coming to be considered “America’s Team.”
Each guy epitomizes what a Zag guard should represent: loyalty and toughness with a chip on their shoulder. Enjoy.
8. Quentin Hall (1998 & 1999)
Standing only 5’8", the native of the Bahamas was a fiery, lightning quick floor leader whose constant smile and great laugh belied his fierce play.
A fan favorite from the moment he stepped on campus, Hall transferred from North Idaho Junior College after his sophomore season and provided an immediate spark off the bench his first year in Spokane.
Named a starter before his senior season, Hall was known as an extremely emotional player on the hardwood and was someone who wasn’t afraid of taking on any challenge, whether on the court or from the opposing student sections.
A catalyst of Gonzaga’s Elite Eight run in 1999, Hall had a fabulous all-around game getting the job done on both ends of the floor.
He was a student of the game and always tried to get his teammates involved. Perhaps most importantly, Hall had a good sense of his own limitations and strengths, which included sharp reflexes, great elevation and an explosive first step.
However, his greatest qualities were his big heart and great attitude.
For his senior season (1998-1999), he averaged 11.5 points and 4 assists per game while starting every game at the point.
Before retiring from basketball in 2008 and returning to the Bahamas, Hall spent close to a decade traveling Europe in the Dutch, Hungarian, Belgium and German leagues.
7. Jeremy Pargo (2005-2009)
The 2008 WCC Player of the Year, Pargo possessed a special type of athleticism never seen before at Gonzaga.
His ability to penetrate and his violent attacks on the rim, made him the face of Zags basketball once Adam Morrison left for the NBA after the 2006 season.
As a freshman, Pargo had an instant impact of the bench, totaling 16 assists in his first three collegiate games. Then, over the next three seasons he started every game, which included a Sweet 16 appearance during his senior season in 2009.
After recording eight or more assists 12 times as a senior, Pargo climbed to third on the Gonzaga all-time assists list (568), passing Stockton (554), who now sits fourth on that chart.
His 170 career steals ranks second on the career list, trailing only Stockton (262).
Following a fantastic junior season, the NBA came calling and mock drafts had Pargo as a late first-round pick, but he decided to return to Spokane anyway.
In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the smartest decision, but he’s now working on his game for Hapoel Gilboa in the Israeli Super League.
And hopefully, one day we’ll see the Chicago native follow his brother, Jannero, and suit up for his hometown Bulls.
6. Derek Raivio (2003-2007)
Many hoops writers and so-called college basketball experts felt the sun would set on Gonzaga’s quest to remain THE mid-major powerhouse in 2004.
However, a spindly sophomore point guard from Vancouver, Wash. took the reins from outgoing upper classmen and kept the Zags on track.
Raivio, the 2007 co-WCC Player of the Year, was a natural leader and the perfect point guard for Coach Few’s offensive system. He always pushed the ball aggressively and made spectacular plays on the fast break, but his shooting stroke is what set him apart from the rest of the field.
A career 48 percent three-point shooter, Raivio was a first-tier marksman with a quick-release and a sniper’s accuracy from long range as well as from the charity stripe.
He finished his four-year stint at GU as the second all-time career free throw percentage leader in NCAA Division I history (92.7%).
To top it off, he ranks third on GU's all-time list for career steals, fourth in three-point field goals made and fifth in assists.
Although Raivio ended his tenure at Gonzaga with a opening round loss to Indiana in the 2007 Dance, it wasn’t his last song as he plays for TBB Trier in Germany right now.
5. Matt Bouldin (2006-Present)
A two-time Colorado State Player of the Year in high school, Bouldin was highly touted by the Gonzaga coaching staff because his intelligence and instincts between the lines.
He finished his 2007 rookie campaign strong, starting the final 15 games of the season.
Since then, Bouldin has started 107 games for the Zags in his three-in-a-half years, winning 84 in that same span.
Some questioned whether Bouldin had what it took to lead the young and inexperienced 2010 squad, but he’s been a fantastic facilitator.
A well-rounded player, he’s averaging 17 points, five boards and four assists a game this season, and was named to the pre-season Wooden Award All-American Team and to the Player of the Year Top 50 watch list.
Right now, Bouldin is predicted as a second-round pick in upcoming NBA Draft, but I look for him to get more attention as March Madness starts rolling around.
4. Richie Frahm (1996-2000)
There’s a lot of similarities in Frahm and Matt Bouldin’s games, and hopefully Bouldin follows the elder’s footsteps to the next level.
A jack of all trades, Frahm ranks eighth on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list, he averaged 12 points a game, peaking senior year with 17 points a night.
Plus, he’s a member of the decorated Class of 2000, who had back-to-back appearances in the Sweet 16 (1999 & 2000).
Undrafted following college, Frahm played a brief stint overseas in the Philippine and Turkish leagues before his hometown Seattle SuperSonics signed him to a one-year deal. He played in Seattle for just one season, averaging over three points a contest.
In five NBA seasons, Frahm played for five teams: Sonics, Blazers, Timberwolves, Rockets and Clippers.
At the moment, he’s suiting up for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League, hoping for another chance to star under the bright lights. He averages 14 points and four boards per game.
3. Blake Stepp (2000-2004)
Coached by his father in high school, Stepp was named Oregon Player of the Year after leading the state in scoring at 25 points a game.
His game translated instantly as a freshman in Spokane, when he was thrust into the starting point guard role just nine games into his collegiate career.
The precocious freshman started all 33 games that season, and made the job his.
During his sophomore campaign Stepp started all 31 games he played, and all this early experience noticeably paid off during junior year when he had 14 games of 20-plus points, also leading WCC conference play in scoring (20.6) and assists (6.0).
For his efforts, Stepp was name AP All-America honorable mention and WCC Player of the Year.
In 2003-2004, Stepp repeated as WCC Player of the Year and was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round. He appeared in a number of pre-season games, but didn’t make the regular-season roster.
Before retiring in 2006, Stepp played in the Serbian and Spanish leagues.
Although he wasn’t always clutch during the game’s final ticks, Stepp established himself as one of the toughest and most skilled Zags of all-time.
After four years, Stepp ranked sixth in career points (1,670) and second in career assists (640).
Fun fact: Stepp participated in the 2008 World Series of Poker main event.
2. Matt Santangelo (1996-2000)
After red shirting in 1995-96, Santangelo morphed into the most recognizable face at Gonzaga, maybe even in Spokane, in his first full season.
Three games into the campaign, he took over as starting point guard and never looked back, starting all 129 games GU played in until he graduated in 2000.
As a sophomore, Santangelo led the Bulldogs to a berth in the NIT, however it was his junior year in 1998-99 that enshrined him into Gonzaga’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
He captained Gonzaga’s Cinderella team, who were a few minutes from making the Final Four before losing a heartbreaker to the eventualchampion UConn Huskies.
Santangelo helped catapult the little-known private university from Spokane onto the national sports scene, culminating with a Sweet 16 appearance against Purdue in 2000.
He passed Stockton for first all-time in career assists (668) and still holds the top spot. A consistent scorer, he’s also fourth in total points scored (1,810).
Immediately following his days at Gonzaga, Santangelo pursued his dream of playing professional basketball by traveling overseas.
He played in Italy, Spain, Greece and Poland over a seven year span, and currently resides with his family in Spokane.
Santangelo finished his career at GU averaging 14 points, five assists and three rebounds a game.
1. Dan Dickau (2001 & 2002)
Looking back, one team’s loss was another team’s gain.
At the University of Washington, Dickau had a limited role on the basketball team and was never given the chance to truly showcase his talents.
Before the 1999-2000 season, he decided to transfer to Gonzaga and red-shirt, a decision that allowed him to compete against Santangelo in practice on a daily basis.
Junior year was his time to shine, and Dickau took college basketball by storm. Averaging 19 points and six assists a game, he was named to the WCC First Team, and from there was touted as one of the best point guards in the country.
In 2001-02, Dickau scored 21 points per game while shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc. His accomplishments senior year were so grand, even on a mid-major scene, that he was named an AP First Team All-American.
After a great two-year stretch at GU, Dickau was the first Bulldog selected in the first round of the NBA Draft since Stockton in 1984.
The Sacramento Kings nabbed him with 28th pick, but then traded him during the draft to the Atlanta Hawks.
His NBA career included being traded eight times in six pro seasons with stops in Portland, Golden State, Dallas, New Orleans, Boston and Los Angeles.
Dickau finished his career averaging six points and two assists a game, and his best season came in 2004-05 with the Hornets, where he averaged 13 points and six assists per game.