Reflecting on Gonzaga Basketball


To be entirely honest, it still hasn’t fully sunk in that I’ve attended my final Gonzaga basketball game as a student. My mindset is still wrapped around the idea that I’ll be back in the McCarthey Athletic Center next October, franticly jumping around to Zombie Nation as part of the nation’s most prominent and energetic student section.

I’m having a difficult time accepting the fact that my four years at this school and at the Kennel are nearly over. I mean, this basketball program has not only become an integral part of my college experience, but has exposed me to a sense of community that I had not previously encountered – one where like-minded students and fans can bond over a shared passion for basketball. Or more so, a passion for a program so special and so incredibly unique that it knits together a common sense of euphoria that evokes pure excitement and emotion with each new season.

Mar 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) reacts after a basket against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the finals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this school, I was clueless as to just how devoted Zag fans were about this team and how adored members of the program were in the Spokane community. I can vividly remember the summer before my freshman year at Gonzaga, when I was living on the same floor as Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. in one of GU’s on-campus dorms, completely unaware of who these guys were or what impact they would have on the school. I didn’t know them all too well, both just seemed like nice guys.

Little did I know that they’d go on to be the winningest duo in Gonzaga history. That Gary would make his mark as one of, if not thee, best perimeter defenders this school has seen. That the “Kevin Pangos Era” would be a thing. That he would etch his name into a long list of legendary Gonzaga point guards.

Now, with one month left of my collegiate career, as I look back on it all, I just sort of chuckle in disbelief at how fast it all went by. In four years, I have not missed a Zags home game, have traveled to Las Vegas each season for the WCC Tournament, and have ventured with the team to each NCAA Tournament destination as part of the Bulldog Band. I’ve had as great of an experience here as any, being fortunate enough to partake in a number of activities that few are able to encounter.

So I suppose that’s why I can’t accept the fact that this ship has run its course. Because this experience has been unlike anything I could’ve ever imagined. Because I got to spend night after night next to my closest friends in the Kennel, exerting an enthusiasm I wasn’t previously aware existed. Because I got to travel to cities all throughout the country to sit court-side at tournament games watching the Bulldogs play. Because I got to experience the Elite Eight during my senior year, witnessing one of the greatest Gonzaga teams ever assembled make history before my very eyes.

Because I got to experience what it’s like to be a Zag.

This one-of-a-kind athletic program has gone from “that cute little school with the weird name” to one of the most dominant, consistent, and recognizable teams in college basketball. Gonzaga has been the home to some incredibly talented athletes, and the future is only looking brighter. Next year, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis return for the 2015-16 season. If Przemek Karnowski decides to join them for his senior campaign, the Zags will have the best front court in the NCAA. The tradition of outstanding guard play will also continue for the Zags, with guys like Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, and Eric McClellan ready to take the reigns in the back court.

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Combine that with highly-valued prospects such as Jesse Wade and Zach Collins, who have already committed to GU, composing the future of this team, and there’s plenty of reason to smile in Spokane. Even more, a significant number of talented transfer and high school players have Gonzaga on their radar. One thing is for sure: Mark Few is going to have consistently talented squads on his hands for years to come.

And though my time here is coming to a close, I wish to share nothing but excitement for the future Zags who’ll get to enjoy the same experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. To all you future Bulldogs out there, cherish every moment you have, because it goes by in a heartbeat. This is a very special place with a very special basketball program.

Sure, I’m sad to be leaving (to put it lightly), but I can gratefully move onward from this incredible adventure in knowing that I’ve made some unforgettable memories and that I’m a Zag for life.