The NBA draft gave rise to much excitement among Gonzaga students and faculty this summer when Kelly Olynyk landed on the Boston Celtics. For students from the Boston area, this is an especially thrilling development. Throughout his time on the GU men’s basketball team, Olynyk transformed from a deep-range shooting, lanky 7-footer to a veritable powerhouse down on the block and one of the best players in the country.
Following his spectacular performance that earned him WCC Player of the Year and first team AP All-American honors, GU students eagerly awaited the outcome of the NBA draft in June. The results thrilled students from the Boston area.
“I had a couple of friends over and they had just walked in the door and they heard me just going nuts,” said sophomore Paul Morrisroe, who is from Glatonsbury, Conn. “They were like, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘Olynyk is on the Celtics!’ ”
Although eligible to play another year, Olynyk decided to jump to the NBA after graduating in the spring with a degree in accounting,
“Ultimately what it boiled down to was it felt like I was ready to go... My schooling was already done and I felt like I was mentally and physically ready to make that step,” Olynyk said in an interview with ESPN.
Originally drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Olynyk was the 13th overall pick. The Celtics then traded the number 16 pick and two second round picks to Dallas in exchange for Olynyk.
“So much tradition, so much excellence, so much success around it, I’m really excited to get in here and really work hard and take this team and do whatever I can to get it back to where they’ve been,” Olynyk said after the trade in an interview with the Celtics.
The GU community has supported Olynyk during his transition to becoming a professional player.
“I’m really interested to look in and follow his progress and see how well he does,” sophomore Catherine Crosby, originally from North Andover, Mass., said.
Olynyk proved himself in the leap from collegiate level of play to the professional level during play for the Celtics in the summer league. In his first game as a professional, he scored 25 points against the Orlando Magic. Olynyk averaged 18 points per game and 2.4 assists during the summer league. Olynyk’s performance in Orlando has helped to buoy fans’ expectations.
“Boston fans are notorious for having a rough exterior, far contrasting the supporting Spokane community,” Morrisroe said.
“He’s definitely going to be under the magnifying glass during his whole career with the Celtics,” Crosby said. “I think he can handle it, but he just can’t be super sensitive because everyone gets under fire at some point. Yeah, people in Boston definitely love their sports.”
GU students from the Boston area feel a special connection to his career. Seeing a Zags player become a member of such a well-known team from the East Coast makes the news all the more exciting.
“He met David Ortiz. That was, like, the coolest thing ever,” Morrisroe said. “Watching Olynyk, who I’ve seen around campus at Gonzaga, and then seeing him with David Ortiz, who’s obviously a Red Sox legend, was so cool to see.”
The GU and Spokane community are excited for the upcoming basketball season and are ready to give full support.