Gonzaga’s backcourt is packed with experienced, proven guards that figure to consume most of the playing time this season.
True freshmen guards Silas Melson and Bryan Alberts understand the depth chart and, barring injuries or unforeseen circumstances, realize there probably won’t be many minutes left to go around. Melson said Tuesday he’ll redshirt this season and Alberts said he’s leaning heavily in the same direction.
“We called it today that I’m going to sit out this year,” said Melson, who led Jefferson High to an Oregon 5A state title last season.
The Bulldogs, who open the season against visiting Sacramento State on Friday, return three-year starters Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos. True freshman Josh Perkins is the backup point guard and Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan is expected to become eligible in January. Wings Byron Wesley, Kyle Dranginis and Connor Griffin are capable of playing multiple positions.
Pangos has shifted from point guard to shooting guard numerous times the last few years and will continue to do so when Perkins enters games.
“I haven’t totally decided, but I’m leaning toward redshirting,” said Alberts, a 6-foot-5 guard from Northridge, California. “It’s because we have a lot of veterans and I need to get my legs strengthened from not playing much (due to injury) last season. This will be a good year for me to get better and come help the team next year.
“It’s really hard when you’re a competitor. Sometimes there are things you have to do to help the team out.”
Melson’s decision wasn’t easy for the player or head coach Mark Few, who informs players of the scenarios at their positions before they arrive at a decision.
“It’s a really difficult call with Silas, probably as tough a one as I’ve had,” Few said. “It’s just finding minutes when only five can play and Kevin functions well at the ‘2’. Silas is a guy that can get his shot and make it. He’s not hurting the team in any area. He really rises up on his jumper. He’s pretty fearless.”
Melson believes he’s ready to play right now, “but, like Bryan said, there are a lot of vets. I’m playing behind a backcourt that went to three straight national tournaments and (reached) No. 1 in the country (two years ago).”
The 6-4 Melson said he’ll use the redshirt season “to get my strength right and get my game tightened up so I can come out better next year.”
Sophomore center Ryan Edwards announced his plans to redshirt two weeks ago.
Gonzaga begins the season with four games in nine days, followed by a cross-country trip for a pair of NIT Season Tip-Off games at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“It’s boom, boom, boom,” Few said. “You deal with that first game against an experienced team and follow up with (No. 22) SMU (on Monday).”
Pangos, bothered by toe and ankle injuries most of last season, said the offseason and preseason seemed “longer than usual. We’re excited to get things underway.”
Asked about dealing with a busy slate of games early, Pangos said, “I’m ready for it. I just love to play. I’ll just do whatever I can to take care of my body and make sure I don’t go too crazy in the gym afterward.”
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