The Gonzaga Bulldogs are perennially one of the top mid-major programs in college basketball. Mark Few has built them into a West Coast Conference powerhouse and led them to 14 straight 20-win seasons. Helping him and the No. 6 ranked Zags run out to a 21-2 record this season has been the emergence of Kelly Olynyk as one of the country’s premier big men.
Olynyk came to Gonzaga from Kamloops, BC, as little more than a tall spot-up shooter. After two seasons of marginal production, averaging just 12.7 minutes per game and 4.8 points per game, the Canadian was redshirted for the 2011-12 season. According to Few, Olynyk used his redshirt year better than anyone he had seen and came back this season ready to lead the Zags to the top.
This season, the 7-footer is averaging over 25 minutes per game and leading the team in scoring with 18 points per contest. He is shooting over 64-percent from the floor and 78-percent from the free-throw line while grabbing seven rebounds and blocking over a shot per game. He still doesn’t possess off-the-charts athleticism, but he’s figured out how to effectively use his body to score in the post and developed one of the best back-to-the-basket games in college basketball.
His improvement has turned Gonzaga’s front-court into one of the best in the country. Paired with 6-foot-8 senior Elias Harris, the Bulldog’s have as much athleticism and scoring ability in the post as any team in the country. And with 6-foot-9 Sam Dower and 7-foot-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski rotating in, there’s little dropoff in size down low when Olynyk needs to rotate out.
A year ago, Kelly Olynyk was an unknown 7-foot Canadian who had been asked to take a year off to figure out his game by his head coach. Today, he’s one of the best post players in the country for the best Gonzaga team in the program’s history. Olynyk has a great opportunity to carry his team to their first Final Four appearance and himself into the first round of the NBA Draft.