Gonzaga Bulldogs: Zags Land Coveted Transfer Johnathan Williams III, Improve National Title Aspirations

After bolstering adding transfers/impact players Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley to a team that would eventually make the Elite Eight, Gonzaga coach Mark Few is at it again. Johnathan Williams III, Missouri’s leading scorer (11.9 points per game) and rebounder (7.1 boards per game) last season, has decided to transfer to GU.

(Insert embedded Instagram thing of Williams decision here).

He’ll have to sit next season out per NCAA transfer rules, but will be eligible for the 2016/2017 season where he will give Gonzaga a legitimate chance at a national title. Joining him in ‘16/’17 will be fellow coveted transfer Nigel Williams-Goss (who joined from Washington) and talented point guard Josh Perkins. Williams will likely be joined in the frontcourt by Domantas Sabonis (assuming he sticks around), center Ryan Edwards and talented recruit Zach Collins. Collins is already listed by ESPN as a top-60 recruit, and his stock will only rise from here. He may well enter Gonzaga as a five-star recruit when all is said and done.

In addition to Williams III, Perkins, Williams-Goss, Sabonis, Collins and Edwards, GU will return Silas Melson and Bryan Alberts, both with an added year of experience under their belts.

Last season’s Elite Eight team was widely regarded as one of, if not the most talented team in Gonzaga history. This group may surpass them and take GU to the Final Four and a national championship.

Damion Lee Considering Gonzaga

Elite transfer Damion Lee is considering transferring to Gonzaga after wrapping up his career at Drexel. The 6’6” guard recently announced that the Zags were one of his finalists, the others being Arizona, Louisville, Marquette and Maryland.

I have narrowed my list down to these schools in alphabetical order: Arizona Gonzaga Louisville Marquette Maryland.

— Damion Lee (@DL_XIV) April 12, 2015

Lee would present a major coup for Mark Few, who might lose Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski to the NBA Draft. The high-scoring win averaged 21.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists at Drexel last season. He put up 13 points a contest as a sophomore after scoring 17.1 per game as a freshman. Lee would be eligible to play immediately, similar to Byron Wesley last season.

Along with Lee, top transfers Nigel Williams-Goss (formerly of UW) and Marcus Foster (Kansas State) are considering the Zags. GU has become a desirable landing spot for transfers thanks to a highly successful program and excellent track record. Players like Wiltjer and Dan Dickau came to Spokane as bench players (at their previous schools) and transformed into All-Americans. Other transfers like Wesley and Micah Downs have become solid starters and integral parts of respective Gonzaga teams. Here’s hoping Lee joins that list.

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Gonzaga Bulldogs: End of a Historic Season and Era, Looking Forward

Coming off the heels of the Gonzaga women losing a heart-breaker, the Gonzaga men experienced a whole different kind of pain in their loss to Duke. While the score line didn’t reflect the tightest of games, GU hung with and at times outplayed the Blue Devils. It was even for much of the game with Duke pulling away late.

The loss not only brings an end to a historic season, but to an era.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few on a positive of a record-setting 35-3 season: “We basically made it to a Final Five, the way this thing lined up.”

— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) March 30, 2015

Mark Few and the Zags will lose three senior starters in Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley. Pangos and Bell Jr. were four year starters at the school and it will seem odd next year to see a Gonzaga game without the floppy haired point guard and his backcourt mate Bell Jr., a lockdown defender and three-point marksman.

The duo started many games ahead of NBA guard David Stockton while also playing with a frontline that sent three players (Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk) to the NBA. This year’s three-headed monster of a frontcourt (Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis) will all likely play in the association once they leave Spokane. It safe to say that the duo have played with numerous talented players, but they’ve also continued the tradition of great guard play at Gonzaga.

Few: “We were just so blessed to go to practice with these dudes, to travel, to do film sessions and obviously to march out on the floor.” — Jim Meehan (@SRJimm) March 30, 2015

The duo’s exceedingly high level of play and leadership will be missed, but the Zags have planned for this inevitability.
Josh Perkins is an extremely gifted passer and will only be a redshirt freshman next season after suffering a broken jaw early in the year. He’s only played a handful of games in a Gonzaga shirt, but he seems poised to continue carrying the torch at GU, or “Guard University” as one of the next great Zag guards.

Do-it-all guard Kyle Dranginis has earned a starting spot after years playing behind Bell Jr. and Pangos, so expect him to start along with Perkins. From there the team has options. Wiltjer could be shoehorned into the small forward spot so Sabonis can start, but Few may prefer the same rotation he used this past season. So it’s likely that Sabonis stays on the bench to start games even though he has received “starter minutes”.

Wiltjer: “I got another year of eligibility so that’s my plan right now (to return).”

— Jim Meehan (@SRJimm) March 30, 2015

With Sabonis on the bench and Dranginis and Perkins in the lineup along with Wiltjer and Karnowski, the team will have options for the fifth starter spot vacated by Byron Wesley. An addition could come via a transfer or the international market, but right now the likely frontrunners are Eric McClellan and Silas Melson.

McClellan previously averaged 14.3 points per game at Vanderbilt, but wasn’t able to log consistent playing time this year thanks to Bell Jr., Pangos and Dranginis. He could thrive in extended minutes in a three-guard lineup with Perkins and Dranginis in a somewhat similar fashion to what GU used to run with Bell Jr., Pangos and Stockton.

Melson was initially going to redshirt thanks to the presence of Perkins, but once his fellow freshman went down with the broken jaw, Melson stepped in and provided quality minutes when called upon. He reached double-digit point totals in wins over Texas Southern, San Francisco, Pepperdine and Pacific. Like McClellan, he could thrive in extended minutes. Regardless of if Melson starts next season, he will likely play a much larger role than he played this season. At the very least, he’ll be one of the Zags go-to players off the bench.

Outside of the losses of their starting seniors, Gonzaga will bring most everyone back. Additionally, center Ryan Edwards and guard Bryan Alberts will be eligible after completing their redshirt seasons. If we’ve learned anything from Gonzaga redshirting players (see Wiltjer and Olynyk) it is that the coaching staff in Spokane knows how to get the most out of their players. Expect the two newly eligible players to contribute.

A starting five of Perkins, Dranginis, McClellan/Melson, Wiltjer and Karnowski is likely good enough to be considered favorites in a WCC where runner-up BYU will lose three of their top five scorers to graduation, including their best player in Tyler Haws. Third-place finisher Saint Mary’s will lose five of their top six scorers and minute-loggers to graduation. Like BYU, Saint Mary’s loses their best player and leading scorer in Brad Waldow.

Thanks to a front-line that will be amongst the nation’s best and a promising point guard, Gonzaga is a good bet to start next season as a top-15 team, with the potential to move up higher depending on what teams above them lose players to early entry in the NBA draft.

The Zags will once again be back in the NCAA tournament in 2016 with their sights set on making that elusive Final Four appearance that eluded this year’s team.

March Madness: Why You Should Trust Gonzaga in Your Bracket

There is a decent amount of skepticism surrounding Gonzaga going into the NCAA tournament. Even in the Zags’ home state of Washington there is skepticism. If you’re not a “Gonzaga hater” (which there are a lot of) you’ve heard the gauntlet of stories. There’s the upset losses to Nevada in 2004, the 2002 loss to Wyoming (yes, over a decade later and people are still giving the Zags flack). There’s also the loss to Wichita State as a #1 seed in 2013 as well as a lack of recent Sweet 16 appearances.

Firstly, those first two losses were 11 and 13 years ago. Gonzaga skeptics will also point to that Wichita State loss when GU was the number one team in the country. Wichita State would go on to make the Final Four that year, and they made a whopping 14 three-pointers. I don’t care what name is on the front of your jersey or what seed you have, when another team makes 14 threes, it’s going to be tough to beat them.

The most ridiculous thing about this Gonzaga criticism is that this is a different year with a completely different team. None of those previous teams featured All-American candidate Kyle Wiltjer or Byron Wesley or future lottery-pick Domantas Sabonis.

Gonzaga has been given the #2 seed in the South Region. Here’s why you should trust them to make a deep run in your bracket.

  • Close to Home

Gonzaga is playing across the state in Seattle, Washington for the first two rounds of the tourney (assuming they beat North Dakota State). Potential opponents in Seattle beyond NDSU include Davidson and Iowa, the winner of the game will likely take on the Bulldogs. Additionally, the Zags have a large fan base in Western Washington and play an annual game in Seattle every season as part of the non-conference schedule every year since 2003. Those games are played in Key Arena, the site of GU’s first two games of the tournament.

  • Familiarity

Of the other 16 teams in the South Region, GU has played and beaten three of them. The Zags shellacked #6 seed SMU 72-56 while they also earned wins over #8 seed Saint John’s and #11 seed UCLA. The Zags will certainly feel confident if they face any of those three in later rounds.

  • Balance

Gonzaga boasts the most efficient offense in the country. The team shoots an absurd 52.4% from the field. They rank sixth in assists per game. The Zags also are tenth in the country in points per game with an average of 79.1 points scored per contest—they hold opponents to 60.9 points per game.

  • Depth

The Bulldogs feature six players who average at least 8.2 points per contest. Kyle Wiltjer leads the team with 16.7 points per game and recently dropped 45 (yes, that’s right 45 against Pacific). Byron Wesley (10.8 points per game) and Gary Bell Jr. (8.2) are two the low-scoring starters, but each could easily average 15 points a contest on a team with less offensive firepower and weapons. Reserve guards Kyle Dranginis, Silas Melson and Eric McClellan are all capable of hitting double figures in a hurry.

  • Size

Gonzaga is one of the few teams that can legitimately challenge Kentucky. Not only can the Zags’ guards play with anyone, their size and skillset would cause Kentucky problems in a potential matchup. Sabonis and Wiltjer both stand at 6’10” while Przemek Karnowski is a massive human being at 7’1”.  All three offer varying skill sets that will cause any team fits.

5 Stats from Gonzaga’s Win over St. Thomas Aquinas


Four—number of players who scored 17 or more points. These players included Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley as well as Angel Nunez and Domantas Sabonis.


Combined points by point guards Kevin Pangos and Josh Perkins. However, the duo combined for 14 assists.


41.2—the percentage of three pointers made by GU.


Seven—number of field goals missed by Wiltjer, Wesley, Nunez and Sabonis. The four combined for 82 points and outscored St. Thomas Aquinas by 27 by themselves.


24—points by senior Angel Nunez, easily a career high.