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Former Gonzaga basketball standouts at Legends event recall rabid Bulldogs fans

UPDATED: Thu., June 27, 2019, 10:38 p.m.

Former Gonzaga basketball star Kelly Olynyk poses for a picture with Zag fan Candi Gilchrist during the Gonzaga Legends event at Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox hosted by The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages Book Club on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Former Gonzaga basketball star Kelly Olynyk poses for a picture with Zag fan Candi Gilchrist during the Gonzaga Legends event at Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox hosted by The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages Book Club on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jason Shoot For The Spokesman-Review

Steven Gray is no stranger to admiration and adulation. That comes with the territory of playing men’s basketball at Gonzaga.

Still, Gray found it difficult to hide a sheepish grin when a woman approached him Thursday night to admit she still harbored a crush on him that dated back to his time running up and down the court in a Bulldog uniform.

“I haven’t been able to replace you yet, Steven,” she said moments before posing with Gray for a photo – an image taken by her husband.

Gray was one of four former Zags participating in Gonzaga Legends, a panel that was part of The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club series. Gray joined former men’s basketball standouts Kelly Olynyk and David Pendergraft, as well as women’s basketball great Heather Bowman. SWX sports director Sam Adams and Hoopfest co-director and former Gonzaga player Matt Santangelo hosted the event.

“It’s humbling,” Gray said of returning to Spokane with his wife and kids for the forum. “I’ve been gone so long it feels like it would be easy to think the fans would forget about us.”

All four featured guests were greeted with loud ovations. Each expressed an appreciation for Gonzaga’s rabid fans, not just those assembled for the event at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

“The support here is through the roof,” said Olynyk, who capped his Gonzaga career in 2013 before he was tabbed a lottery pick by the Boston Celtics in the NBA draft. “The number of people who care and how much they care is insane.”

Olynyk, who currently plays for the Miami Heat, recalled his decision to remain in coach Mark Few’s program after his first two seasons were not as productive as he wanted. He took an uncommon step of redshirting after his sophomore campaign, and he used that time to improve the skills that made the 7-footer an eventual NBA player.

“Whatever you do, you have to be in control of your own destiny,” he said.

Pendergraft joked that part of Olynyk’s destiny was forgoing his senior season to turn professional.

“Just so you know,” Pendergraft said, turning to the audience, “when you’re a lottery pick, you go.”

Bowman, who starred as a prep player at Lewis and Clark, could have played basketball at a number of high-profile universities before electing to stay home.

“I was pretty intent on doing that for a while,” Bowman said of playing elsewhere. “I looked at Oregon, the University of Washington. It was just something about that Gonzaga vibe that feels really good, like they’re starting something.”

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