Is Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk Making a Case for National Player of the Year?

By Jared Mintz
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Somebody cue up the ESPN “30 for 30” music…

What if I told you, a player on the No. 3 team in the country was averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, and shooting 65-percent from the field and almost 80-percent from the free-throw line?

What if I also told you, he played for mid-major Gonzaga?

End scene.

Gonzaga junior Kelly Olynyk has taken not just the West Coast Conference by storm, but the nation by storm, hitting three’s, dunking on fools, but more importantly, being incredibly efficient for one of the top teams in the country. I mean, for goodness sake, he’s hit 20 of his last 26 shots heading into Saturday’s matchup with San Diego, another game that his Bulldogs should bulldoze through.

So this brings me back to my initial thought: is Olynyk having a good enough season to be in the race for National Player of the Year?

With Gonzaga winning their February contests by an average of 19.5 points per game, and the Bulldogs being in the top-10 in the nation in both scoring and field goal percentage, don’t you think their top scorer – not to mention most efficient scorer, by a lot – is one of the nation’s most significant players?

As CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish pointed out this morning in his weekend preview, Olynyk “has gone from a 7-foot redshirt junior few people outside of Gonzaga really knew to a possible First Team All-American in a span of three months.”

The last season that he played in, the 2010-11 campaign, Olynyk averaged 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.5 minutes. It’s not like his evolution is a complete shocker either, as he’s been one of the rising stars on the Canadian National Team for the last couple of summers. But, I don’t think Olynyk factored too heavily into the decision to rank Gonzaga at No. 21 heading into the season.

The climb for both the ‘Zags and their big man has been relatively unexpected, but heading into March, I think the only unexpected moving forward is that the star isn’t celebrated come this postseason, and maybe even shortly after that, when the NBA comes calling.

In a season where there just doesn’t seem to be a run away candidate, I don’t see how many players have done more for their teams than Olynyk. So all that I ask is that you don’t sleep on the British Columbian, his wonderful hair, or his nasty game.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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