Until the mid-1990s, Gonzaga basketball was known nationally only for John Stockton having played there. And this slice of fame was based on what Stockton accomplished in the NBA, not on anything that happened at Gonzaga during Stockton’s time in Spokane.
But under Don Monson, Gonzaga started to emerge as a regional power. And under Mark Few, who took over in 1999, the Bulldogs (also called the Zags) began their climb to national prominence.
Gonzaga has made the NCAA tournament every year it’s been played since Few arrived. They have made the Sweet Sixteen ten times, the Elite Eight four times, and the Final Four twice. In 2017, Gonzaga was the national runner-up. Few’s record with Gonzaga is 629–124 (.835).
This year’s team is his best. It is undefeated so far.
Gonzaga’s offense is the best I’ve seen in college basketball for years, maybe decades. It starts with the outstanding freshman point guard, Jalen Suggs, and typically runs through their center, Drew Timme. On offense, the pair reminds me a little of Henry Bibby and Bill Walton of the 1971-72 UCLA team. And that’s not even to mention the shooting of Gonzaga’s first-team all-American Corey Kispert.
Until the Elite Eight game against USC, I was under the impression that Gonzaga’s defense was very good, but not great. In that contest, however, the Zags played championship basketball at both ends of the court.
It’s not easy to pick all-time great Gonzaga starting fives, but here’s my attempt at it, which includes a former federal court district judge.
John Stockton (1980-84)
John Stockton put Gonzaga basketball on the map. I think the first time the program impinged on my consciousness was when Stockton was invited to the 1984 Olympic trials and then was selected in the first round of that year’s NBA draft.
As a senior, Stockton was named West Coast Athletic Conference player of the year after leading the league in scoring, assists, and steals. He averaged 21 points and 7.2 assists per game that year. He made 58 percent of his field goal attempts and 56 percent of them during his four career.
Stockton went on to become one of the five best point guards in NBA history, in my opinion.
Stockton’s son David also played point guard for Gonzaga with good success, although he isn’t listed in this post. David Stockton currently plays in the NBA G-League.
Dan Dickau (2000-02)
A transfer from the University of Washington, Dickau became Gonzaga’s first first-team Associated Press all-American. Though he played only two seasons in Spokane, Dickau finished his career ranked sixth on the career assists list and 16th in career scoring.
As a senior, he averaged 21 points and five assists per game, while converting 42 percent of his three-pointers.
Dickau was selected late in the first round of the 2002 NBA draft. He was traded eight times and ended his six-year career averaging 5.8 points and 2.5 assists per game.
Corey Kispert (2017-present)
Kispert is a first-team all-American this year. He averaged 19 points and five rebounds per game, and shot an astounding 45.3 percent from three-point territory (53.5 percent, overall).
He will be selected in the first round of this year’s NBA draft, probably in the lottery portion.
Adam Morrison (2004-06)
Morrison is third on Gonzaga’s all-time scoring list. He led the nation in scoring as a senior, averaging 28.1 points per game that season. He made first-team all-American and was co-player of the year for both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the United States Basketball Writers Association.
Morrison was the third pick in the 2006 NBA draft, selected by Charlotte under the leadership of Michael Jordan. He struggled as a rookie, especially on defense, and then sustained a major knee injury. His pro career fizzled.
A diabetic since his early teens, Morrison became a role model for children with diabetes.
Drew Timme (2019-present)
I love this guy’s game, but putting him on my first team is defensible based on objective factors, as well as subjective ones. This season, he made second-team all-American, and averaged 19 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Oh, and he made 65 percent of his field goal attempts.
Frank Burgess (1958-61)
Frank Burgess is a great American success story. Born in Eudora, Arkansas (where, he quipped, “the only fast food was if you hit a deer going 70”), Burgess attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (Arkansas AM&N), which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
After two years, Burgess left and joined the Air Force. He served for four years, mostly in Europe.
Then, Burgess enrolled at Gonzaga. He was 23 years old at the time.
A man among boys, Burgess was absolutely dominant on the basketball court. He’s Gonzaga’s all-time leader in points scored. His scoring averages during his three seasons were: 23.2, 28.9, and 32,4. The last of these numbers was the best in college basketball that year, and Burgess was named second-team all-American (AP).
Burgess was drafted by the NBA but played in the fledgling ABL. When it folded, Burgess enrolled at Gonzaga’s law school.
Burgess had a distinguished legal career which culminated in his appointment as a U.S. district court judge by President Clinton (Western District of Washington). He died in 2010.
Blake Stepp (2000-04)
Stepp was an honorable mention all-American as a junior and a second-team all-American as a senior, when he led the Bulldogs to number two in the college basketball polls.
Stepp is ninth on Gonzaga’s all-time scoring list. In addition, he was also a two-time academic all-American.
Stepp was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves but played overseas, instead. When an injury ended his career, he played professional poker for a while, competing in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 World Series of Poker.
Rui Hashimura (2016-19)
Hachimura is from Japan, the son of a Japanese mother and a Beninese father. He played three seasons for the Zags before turning pro after his junior season.
That season, Hachimura averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He made 59 percent of his field goal attempts and earned first-team all-American honors.
The Washington Wizards made Hashimura the seventh pick in the 2019 draft. Following a decent rookie year, he seems to be emerging as a force this season. He currently averages 14 points and six rebounds per game.
Ronny Turiaf (2002-05)
This native of Martinique, via Paris, ranks seventh on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list, fifth in career rebounds, and third in blocked shots. Twice, he was an honorable mention all-American. As a senior, he averaged 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Lakers drafted Turiaf, but he had to defer his career due to heart surgery. Turiaf came back from that surgery to put in 10 solid NBA years as a back-up center. His career NBA shooting percentage is .533.
Kelly Olynyk (2009-13)
It was difficult to pick from among Olynyk, Domantas Sabonis, and Filip Petrušev for the second big-man spot on this team. I went with Olynyk because he had a longer career at Gonzaga and made first-team all-American.
However, the big Canadian didn’t shine until his final campaign. That year, in earning first-team all-American honors, he averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while making 63 percent of his shots. He led Gonzaga to a 32-3 record and its first number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
Olynyk has had a productive NBA career. Any devoted Washington Wizards fan will remember him for his performances against the Wiz for Boston in the playoffs.
Kevin Pangos (2012-15)
He’s fifth all time in points for Gonzaga, sixth in assists, and third in steals. Pangos averaged 13 points a game as a four year starter and made 41.5 percent of his three pointers. As a senior, he made third-team all-American.
Pangos currently plays in Russia.
Jeremy Pargo (2005-09)
It’s easy to confuse him with Kevin Pangos, at least for me. In fact, both guards have similar career numbers.
Pargo is fourth all time in both assists and steals for the Zags, but wasn’t quite the shooter Pangos was.
Pargo now plays in Israel where he has starred for many years.
Kyle Wiltjer (2014-16)
After two years at Kentucky, this Canadian transferred to Gonzaga. As a senior, he averaged 20.4 points per game and made 43.7 percent of his three-pointers. This earned him third-team all-American honors from AP.
Wiltjer played briefly in the NBA. He now plays in Turkey.
Domantas Sabonis (2014-16)
Son of Basketball Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas has made his own name both at Gonzaga and the NBA. For the Zags, he averaged 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds his senior year, while making 61 percent of his field goal attempts.
In the NBA, he’s the starting center for the Indiana Pacers and has already made two all-star teams. Sabonis has also played for the Lithuanian national team, debuting at age 19.
Filip Petrušev (2018-20)
The big Serb averaged 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in his second (and final) season in Spokane. His field goal percentage was .562. That season, he was named West Coast Conference player of the year and third-team all-American.
Petrušev then declared for the NBA draft but wound up playing in Serbia.
Nigel Williams-Goss (2016-17)
One of the most highly sought after high school players in the country, Williams-Goss chose the University of Washington. After two years there, he transferred to Gonzaga where he played just one season.
What a season. Williams-Goss led the Zags to their first Final Four (where they lost a close Final game to North Carolina). For the season, he averaged 19.8 points and 4.7 assists. His shooting percentage was a healthy (for a guard) .486. His contributions were rewarded with a second-team all-American selection by AP.
Since leaving Spokane, Williams-Goss has played overseas.
Josh Perkins (2014-19)
As a sophomore, Perkins was Williams-Goss’ running mate in the backcourt of the 2017 Final Four team. He is Gonzaga’s all-time leader in assists. His senior year, Perkins averaged 6.3 assists per game.
Perkins made 38.6 percent of his three-point shots during his Gonzaga career. These days, he plays in Serbia.
Matt Bouldin (2007-10)
Bouldin is Gonzaga’s eighth leading scorer, all time. He was a three-time first-team all-West Coast Conference player and won conference player of the year honors his senior year. That season, he averaged 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game.
Brandon Clarke (2018-19)
Clarke played just one season for Gonzaga after transferring from San Jose State. He made that season count, averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. His field goal percentage was an incredible .687.
Clarke was also named conference defensive player of the year and the Sporting News awarded him third-team all-American status.
Memphis made Clarke the 21st overall pick in the draft (the same draft in which his teammate Rui Hashimura was selected seventh. Clarke averages 11.6 points and 5.6 points per game for the Grizzlies.
Elias Harris (2009-13)
Harris is Gonzaga’s number four all-time scorer and number two all-time leading rebounder. For his career, he averaged 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. He made half of his field goal attempts.
A German-American, Harris’ professional career has been in Germany, but he did play two games for the Lakers.
Jerry Vermillion (1952-55)
Gary Lechman ((1965-67)
Jim McPhee (1986-90)
Jeff Brown (1992-94)
Bakari Hendrix (1995-98)
Richie Frahm (1996-00)
Matt Santangelo (1997-00)
Casey Calvary (1998-01)
Cory Violette (2001-04)
Derek Raivio (2004-07)
Austin Daye (2007-09)
Robert Sacre (2007-12)
Przemak Karnowski (2013-17)
Zach Collins (2016-17)
Johnathan Williams (2016-18)
Zach Norvell (2017-18)
Killian Tillie (2016-20)
Jalen Suggs (2010-21)