Earlier today, Gonzaga’s star big man Kelly Olynyk was named to the 1st team of the Associated Press’s All-American team. The center capped off his unforgettable junior season by being recognized as one of the elite players in the entire country. Olynyk, who redshirted his junior year, which is an extremely unorthodox way of using a redshirt, was possibly one of the most improved players in the country this season. In Olynyk’s freshmen and sophomore year, he was primarily a pick and pop shooter, who loitered around the three-point line. In his redshirt season, he worked with Gonzaga strength and conditioning coach, Tom Knight, to improve his overall strength and balance to become the elite collegiate center that he is today.
In high school, Olynyk was a six foot three and exclusively a guard. After a seven inch growth spurt in his senior year of high school, Olynyk was forced to learn an entirely new position. However, he was not even close to where he needed to be at a physical level. He came to Gonzaga without lifting a weight in his entire life. After a frustrating first two years as a Bulldog, Olynyk decided to redshirt, rather than transferring or quitting. The rest is history.
What people fail to remember is that Olynyk was suspended for the first three games of the season, for undisclosed reasons. It didn’t make much of a difference for the Bulldogs, who went undefeated during that stretch. Many of the Gonzaga fanbase was shocked to see Olynyk in the starting lineup for the Zags opening round game in the Old Spice Classic against Clemson, replacing Sam Dower. He had 13 points in the contest. His breakout game was against Washington State, where Olynyk scored 22 points, most of which came in the second half. It was the first game that truly indicated that he would have such a groundbreaking season. His season averages were 17.8 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 1.7 assists per game.
This is an extremely prestigious honor for Olynyk and the Gonzaga basketball program. No matter what the future holds for Olynyk, this will always be a season that he can hang his hat on.
Congratulations Kelly, you deserve it.