Is it too late to make this a 40 for 20?
It’s a near-impossible task to assemble Gonzaga’s top 20 athletes since 2000 from 16 teams, eight women’s and eight men’s. The men’s basketball team alone has 17 players who have earned All-America status in that time frame, and nine Zags have played in NBA games this season. So feel free to compile your own list if you have a spare 72 hours or so.
First, a few ground rules. Athletes were eligible if they played at least half, or more, of their careers in the 2000s. That eliminated sure-fire top-20 candidates Matt Santangelo (1997-2000), men’s soccer’s Brian Ching (1996-2000) and women’s soccer’s Sara Streufert (1997-2000), but not Jason Bay (1999-2000) or Casey Calvary (1998-2001).
It goes without saying it was a challenge weighing the unforgettable one-year basketball tenures of Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Collins and Brandon Clarke, two-year sensations such as Dan Dickau, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, three-year stars like Adam Morrison, Rui Hachimura and Kelly Olynyk and four-year standouts (too many to list).
Your mileage will certainly vary, but here’s our GU 20 for 20:
1. Adam Morrison, basketball (2004-06): The Mead High product took the college basketball world by storm in his junior season, leading the nation in scoring, magazine covers and entertainment value. He shared a couple of player of the year awards with Duke’s J.J. Redick. Morrison’s stats in 2006 were absurd: Five 40-point games, 28.1 points per game, 49.6% on field goals, 42.8% on 3-pointers, 77.2% on free throws. He was the 2006 West Coast Conference Player of the Year and named MVP of the WCC Tournament in 2005 and 2006. He ranks third on GU’s all-time scoring list with 1,867 points and first in single-season scoring (926). Morrison, an analyst on Gonzaga basketball radio broadcasts, was taken No. 3 by Charlotte, the highest draft selection in program history, and played four NBA seasons.
2. Courtney Vandersloot, basketball (2008-11): The talented point guard guided the program into the national spotlight, leading teams that made the NCAA round-of-32, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in her last three seasons. She was at her best in the biggest games. She scored 29 points and equaled the school record with 17 assists in a second-round win over UCLA. She totaled 29 points and seven assists in a Sweet 16 victory over Louisville while breaking the NCAA single-season assists record and the WCC career steals mark. She scored 18 consecutive GU points in a season-ending loss to Stanford. Vandersloot is GU’s all-time leader in steals (366) and assists (1,118, by 518 over second-place Haiden Palmer) and is No. 2 in scoring (2,073). She was the WCC Player of the Year three times and a three-time honorable mention All-America. She won the 2011 Lieberman Award (top guard) and Pomeroy Naismith Award (top player 5-foot-8 or under). She’s a two-time WNBA All-Star.
3. Ronny Turiaf, basketball (2002-05): The native of France, by way of Martinique, is all over the Zags’ record book, but forgive GU fans if the first thing they think about is Turiaf’s unique combination of charisma and on-court passion. Turiaf’s outgoing personality put him at, or near the top, of the list of most popular Zags. His successful career helped open the door for the program’s international recruiting efforts. He ranks seventh in scoring (1,723), fifth in rebounds (859), first in made free throws (643, breaking Frank Burgess’ 44-year-old record), third in blocks (179) and we’re guessing No. 1 in languages spoken (five). He scored 40 points against Idaho in a 2004 game. The 2005 WCC Player of the Year played in the NBA from 2006-15.
4. Blake Stepp, basketball (2001-04): A rare four-year starter, Stepp put up big numbers to help Gonzaga stay in the national picture following its magical run to the 1999 Elite Eight and 2000 Sweet 16. The point guard became the first Zag to earn consecutive All-America honors (honorable mention in 2003, AP second team in 2004). He was the 2001 WCC Freshman of the Year and the program’s only two-time WCC Player of the Year (2003, 2004). He ranks third in career assists (640), and he holds the single-game record with 16. He’s second in career 3-pointers (288) and ninth in scoring (1,670).
5. Marco Gonzales, baseball (2011-13): The left-handed pitcher captured the triple crown of WCC awards: 2011 freshman of the year, 2012 pitcher of the year and co-player of the year in 2011 and 2013. He tossed four complete-game shutouts and once pitched 11 innings, the longest outing in school history. He fanned 15 batters in a 2012 contest. He won 11 games in 2011, just behind the school record of 12, and posted a 1.55 ERA in 2012. Gonzales is in the top six in career wins, win percentage, innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts. He’s pitched in the majors for St. Louis and Seattle and is scheduled to be the Mariners’ Opening Day starter July 24.
6. Dan Dickau, basketball (2001-02): The sharp-shooting guard began his career at Washington but burst onto the national landscape after transferring to GU for his final two seasons. Dickau made 46.5% of his 3-point attempts and hit 188 3-pointers in two seasons, even though his first year in 2001 was shortened by nine games due to injury. He wore No. 21 because his idol John Stockton’s No. 12 wasn’t available after Stockton completed his GU career in 1984. Dickau was a first-team All-American and Wooden Award finalist in 2002. He’s ninth in career 3-pointers and his 117 in 2002 is a single-season record. The first-round draft pick played in the NBA from 2003-08.
7. Nigel Williams-Goss, basketball (2017): The Washington transfer only played one season in a Gonzaga uniform, but he packed it with points (16.8), assists (4.7) and rebounds (6.0) as the Zags won 37 games and reached the 2017 national championship. Williams-Goss earned first- or second-team All-America honors from seven outlets and was also an Academic All-American.
8. Rui Hachimura, basketball (2017-19): The Japanese native barely saw the court in his freshman season, often missing practice while taking courses to learn the English language. By his sophomore season, he was a key contributor. By his junior season, he had developed into an All-American and one of the Japan’s most popular athletes. Hachimura averaged 19.7 points in his final season, hit a winning shot versus Washington and his basket against Duke held up as a winner in the Maui Invitational championship. He won the 2019 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year award and was then drafted ninth overall by Washington.
9. Heather Bowman, basketball (2007-10): The Lewis and Clark High grad had a record-setting career with the Bulldogs. Her awards collection includes the 2007 WCC Freshman/Newcomer of the Year, the 2008 WCC Player of the Year and four All-WCC first-team selections. Bowman, who had four 30-point games, finished her career with 2,165 points, a WCC record at the time, and still tops on Gonzaga’s all-time list. She’s third in rebounds (874) and field-goal percentage (51.2).
10. Domantas Sabonis, basketball (2015-16): The skilled forward had two memorable seasons, coming off the bench as a freshman before a standout sophomore year. The son of Lithuanian legend Arvydas Sabonis forged his own path as a 2016 honorable mention All-American and eventual NBA draft lottery pick. He scored 1,002 career points and ranks eighth in school history with 694 rebounds. He averaged 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds while posting 23 double-doubles as a sophomore.
11. Sophie Whittle, tennis (2015-19): The best player in program history climbed from No. 35 in the national rankings at the outset of her senior season all the way to No. 1. She finished with a 29-9 singles record and victories over nine ranked opponents. Whittle was a 2019 ITA All-American and the WCC Player of the Year. She earned four first-team All-WCC honors. Her 90 singles victories and 71.9 winning percentage are No. 1 in program history.
12. Jason Bay, baseball (1999-2000): The Canadian native only played two seasons after transferring from North Idaho College, but he made the most of his short GU career. He hit 20 home runs in his first season and 15 in his second, ranking third and fifth, respectively, in program history. He drove in 74 runs in 1999, second on the single-season list, and his career average of .374 is seventh. He was a three-time All-Star during a 11-year major league career.
13. Kelly Olynyk, basketball (2010-13): The 7-footer used a rare midcareer redshirt season – he considered transferring before deciding to remain at GU – and developed into an AP first-team All-American. Olynyk went from coming off the bench as a sophomore to being one of the nation’s best players as a junior. The Canadian native’s scoring average soared from 5.8 to 17.8 points. The 2013 lottery pick is in his seventh NBA season.
14. Kevin Pangos, basketball (2012-15): The point guard made his mark early – hitting a school-record nine 3-pointers in a win over Washington State in the second game of his freshman year. The Canadian native went on to become the program’s all-time leader in made 3s (322). He’s third in steals, fifth in points and sixth in assists. He bookended his career with the 2012 WCC Freshman of the Year and the 2015 WCC Player of the Year.
15. Jill Barta, basketball (2016-18): The scoring machine from Montana had seven 30-point efforts, including 37 in the 2017 WCC Tournament title win over Saint Mary’s, one shy of Amy Simpson’s school record.
Barta’s 22 rebounds against Belmont set the single-game standard. She ended her three-year career No. 7 in career points (1,620) and No. 1 in free-throw accuracy (85.2%).
16. Savannah Blinn, volleyball (2011-15): The Lewiston High product capped her career with three straight All-WCC first-team selections, the first in 2013 ending a two-decade drought for the program. She’s the only player in program history with two honorable mention All-America honors. In the rally scoring era (since 2001), Blinn is No. 1 in career kills (1,729), kills per set (4.07) and hitting percentage (.288).
17. Brandon Clarke, basketball (2019): The San Jose State transfer had one of the most efficient statistical seasons in NCAA history while helping Gonzaga win 33 games and reach the Elite Eight. The bouncy, 6-8 forward was a one-man highlight reel with soaring dunks and high-flying blocks. He swatted 117 shots, GU’s single-season record by 47, and made 68.7% of his field-goal attempts, another single-season mark.
18. Kara Soucek, rowing (2013-16): Soucek holds the distinction of being the only one in program history to earn first-team All-America honors and a pair of WCC Rower of the Year awards (2015, 2016). She was named All-WCC in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Soucek joins Maria Bukulich (2002, 2003, 2004) as the program’s only three-time all-region selections. Gonzaga won WCC championships in 2015 and 2016.
19. Sean Walsh, golf (2013-16): His career produced numerous program firsts, including the first to win WCC Player of the Year (2016). He was just the second Zag to advance to the NCAA Regionals and posted the top finish (17th). His 71.55 scoring average is the best in program history by nearly two strokes. He also owns the lowest career scoring average (73.14).
20. Przemek Karnowski, basketball (2013-17): The 7-1 center from Poland was a key contributor on two of GU’s greatest teams (2014-15, 2016-17). The fan favorite came back from a career-threatening back injury to win the 2017 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award. He finished his career with an NCAA-record 137 wins. He is No. 16 on the school’s all-time scoring list and No. 6 in rebounding.
Ten more: Alice Kim, golf (2012-15); Troy Fraley, men’s track, cross country (2013-17); Shelby Mills, women’s track, cross country (2013-16); George Josten, soccer (2004-07); Madeline Gotta, soccer (2016-19); Sam Feit, tennis (2016-20); Elias Harris, basketball (2009-13); Katelan Redmon, basketball (2010-12); Casey Calvary, basketball (1998-2001); Ian Melder, rowing (2017-2020).
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