The second-winningest player in Gonzaga history was in attendance for the Bulldogs’ 92-62 thrashing of the San Francisco Dons on Thursday night.
Former guard Silas Melson, who graduated after last season, traveled to Spokane during a hiatus in his professional basketball schedule.
Melson first signed with Lavrio of the Greek Basket League in June of last year before he signed a one-month contract with Hapoel Be’er Sheva of the Israeli Premier League in December. He called it a business decision to leave Greece after the team wasn’t successful.
He was welcomed back to the sold-out Kennel with an appearance on the video boards and raucous applause, but he was more excited to see his old teammates and college program live in action.
“I have been following the program still a lot, though,” he said. “I know they seem special, scary. I have been watching them every chance I get. The talent here is crazy still.”
This team has been compared to the Final Four team of two years ago, but outside of wins and talent, there is one stark difference.
“I think this team is a lot different because that Final Four team was obviously good on the offensive end, but the defense was crazy, a defensive powerhouse,” he said. “This team is an offensive powerhouse, they could put up 100 (points) any time they want to. This team definitely has a chance to win it all. They got my vote. I think they will.”
The 2016-2017 team was first in defensive efficiency (according to KenPom) and 10th in points allowed at 61.5. On the offensive side, they were 16th in both efficiency and scoring.
This season, they are first in scoring and offensive efficiency. Defensively they are 39th in scoring and 20th in efficiency.
One of the holdovers from the Final Four team is redshirt senior Josh Perkins who just passed Blake Stepp for second in assists in program history. Melson and Perkins were both guards who were recruited in the same year.
“Just doing what he is supposed to do, being a senior leader,” Melson said of Perkins. “He is being the most solid player consistently on the team … If you take him out of the equation, there really is no team right now. He is getting the job done offensively, leading the players and getting the ball to the right people. It is something everyone knew he could do. I am just really proud of him for doing that.”
Perkins was just thrilled to see his friend.
“Same guy, he is obviously my brother, big-time surprise (seeing him),” he said. “I am glad he is healthy, still playing ball and still came back to check on his boys and say what’s up. That’s my dude.
“He survived all of this, he is a guy you came to college with and just to see him, same dude with a little more money in his pocket.”
The one player Melson mentioned that pops out every time he watches is redshirt junior Brandon Clarke. Melson practiced against Clarke last season when Clarke was redshirting, but obviously the rest of the country hadn’t experienced him in a GU uniform until November.
Melson isn’t shocked to see Clarke put up numbers, but he didn’t expect it so quickly.
“Just how hard he has come out,” Melson said. “I obviously knew he was talented, but I think he is surprising everybody that hasn’t seen him play that this dude is the real deal. His motor is crazy and it is going to take him far.”
As for what he misses most, Melson misses his brothers and the environment GU cultivates.
“Being in this locker room for sure. Being here and walking here yesterday, the energy is always good,” he said. “Just being around a bunch of good people all day. When you go pro, everybody is doing their own thing, but in college you’re one unit, you’re brothers.”
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