The other day I was in the gym playing basketball. A bunch of us were in the middle of a pickup game when two Gonzaga players, sophomore forward, Connor Griffin and redshirt freshman guard, Dustin Triano, walked in and started shooting around. All of the sudden no one wanted to play pickup basketball anymore. Everyone went to join Griffin and Triano. I remained behind to play a game of horse with my good friend and fellow West Coast Convo writer, Sam Falcone. Sam decided to leave after the game, but once again I stayed behind, this time to shoot a few free throws before I finished up. I then decided that I had the perfect opportunity to hear from some great sources inside Gonzaga basketball. Both players were very nice and gave me great answers to all of my questions. I was a little nervous that they might not have wanted to talk to an interviewer at that time, but they were happy to talk to me and I had enjoyable discussions with both players.
After chatting a bit about finals week we talked basketball. I begun by asking the question that was on everyone’s minds. What is it like to be on what is shaping up to be one of the greatest Gonzaga basketball teams in history? When I asked Triano about this he replied saying, “There’s definitely lots of good players and lots of people that makes practices really competitive. We also have a really deep team. It’s awesome to be a part of and anything I can do to make it better is good.” Griffin answered by saying, “I didn’t even think that we would be as good as we are. To come in here, be a part of that, and try and help us get better is just a great feeling, especially with the team we have and how good of character guys we have.” When I asked this question both Griffin and Triano were obviously enthusiatic. It is great to see that the players, like the fans, are so excited about this team.
Speaking of excitement, I asked Connor Griffin what it is like to come into the game when the crowd’s excitement level is so high. There have been occasions where the crowd will chant Griffin’s name because they want him to come into the game. He responded saying, “I could have never imagined that would ever happen, but, I mean, it’s great… I just wish I could get a dunk to make them happy now,” Griffin said with a laugh. Griffin is known as a high-flying dunker, so I wanted to know if his mindset upon entering the game was specifically to dunk the ball. He told me, “I’m just trying to attack the rim hard and I think that [dunking] is just one aggressive way to do that. I figure if I’m going to go in I should at least do something aggressive. Not everything’s going to be a dunk, but in those situations that’s kind of been my go to I guess.”
Dec 15, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Connor Griffin (14) drives the lane against Texas Southern Tigers forward Nick Shepherd (33) during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Bulldogs won 94-54. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Along with being a skilled player and fan favorite comes some fame. The basketball players are like celebrities on campus. I asked Griffin what that was like and how he deals with the attention. He said, “I just always want to reach out to other people and try to make their day however I can.”
Aside from losing to Arizona, this season the Zags have been steamrolling the vast majority of their opponents. I asked Dustin Triano what that was like. I have noticed that some of the lopsided games have gotten slow toward the end, so I was interested to learn more about Triano’s perspective on this subject. “We stay pretty concentrated. Coach Few does a good job of keeping us focused,” Triano said.
After this I asked about team goals for each game. It is always interesting to hear how teams plan for their opponents. I wondered if the Zags had similar goals for every game or if they changed a lot based on their opponents. Triano answered by saying, “There’s long term goals and then there’s short term goals, but we have to win each game. We didn’t beat Arizona, so I feel like we kind of failed our goal there, but when we played UCLA we were able to win that game. There’s different goals for each game and then there’s the long term goals to win the WCC and then go deep into the tournament and hopefully win a national championship.” This is the winning mentality that Gonzaga needs to be successful. Hearing this answer got me pumped for what is to come.
We talked about conference play later on in the conversation. After seeing the success of teams in the WCC such as St. Mary’s and BYU I was interested in hearing who the players thought the toughest opponent would be this season. When asked who the Zags’ toughest competitor would be Triano responded, “I would say, probably BYU.” Griffin agreed that BYU is the best opponent in the conference. “BYU beat us last year and they still have Tyler Haws who’s a really aggressive scorer,” Griffin said. He later went on to explain what WCC play is like. “We get everybody’s best game every time because we’re Gonzaga, so everyone wants to beat us. There’s no easy games. I’m sure we’ll blow some teams out, but at the same time there’s never really an easy game,” said Triano. Griffin commented on losing some conference games last season and said, “There’s kind of a chip on our shoulder right now and we’re not looking forward to any more losses.”
I then asked Griffin what the mentality was like in the locker room. The team constantly seems focused and prepared for games, so I was interested in hearing how the team acts behind the scenes. Griffin said, “We have a really goofy group and no one with an inflated ego or anything like that, so it makes everything easy.” He later went on to say, “We have a lot of good players and people understand that we’re going to have to share the ball and everyone’s going to have their night.”
More from West Coast Convo
- Get Conference News, in the New FanSided Android App
- West Coast Convo Madness: Win $500 or an Apple TV from RetailMeNot and LockerDome
- FanSided Madness: Win $500 or an Apple TV from RetailMeNot and LockerDome
- Get Instant Conference News, in the New Sports Illustrated App
- Make sure a Conference fan is crowned Fan of the Year
Finally, I asked Connor Griffin about his situation as one of the younger players on a team full of experienced players. He responded saying, “[I’m learning] a lot of their leadership skills. You can not be the best player on the floor, but still be able to make an impact in your own kind of way. You have to play within yourself and find that kind of niche that you have.”
It was great talking to these two players and I would like to thank them for taking the time to talk to me. These are two players with great character and I wish them both much success throughout their careers.
Dec 6, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; The Gonzaga Bulldogs (left) and the Arizona Wildcats huddle before the first half at McKale Center. Arizona won 66-63 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports