Gonzaga University welcomes its greatest recruiting class ever this fall as the ‘tricky trio’ of Jalen Suggs, Dominick Harris, and Julian Strawther, in addition to graduate transfer Aaron Cook, help the Zags reload in search of a national title. The 2020-21 squad looks to eclipse the heights of 2016-17 team that took GU to its first Final Four.
The 2016-17 squad propelled GU men’s hoops to unprecedented heights, all thanks to the depth of talent and high team morale.
“We were so close both on and off the court,” Rem Bakamus, a redshirt senior guard on the 16-17 Zags team said. “We hung out all the time, guys 1-15, to the point where we weren’t afraid to call one another out if guys weren’t doing their job.”
The team cultivated the Gonzaga community, both in Spokane and around the world.
“I was in Poland during the Sweet 16 matchup against West Virginia with half the Gonzaga-in-Florence program,” Will Foley, a GU graduate, said. “When [Jordan Matthews] hit that corner 3, Zags were sprinting up and down the hallways of a five-star hotel in Krakow at 1:30 in the morning, it was madness.”
Such a historic run will never be forgotten by Zag basketball fans, but where are the players four years removed from college basketball’s greatest stage?
Bryan Alberts, RS So G: Despite racking up 10 starts the previous year, Alberts logged just 142 minutes on the 2016-2017 squad. After completing his degree that spring, Alberts transferred to Long Beach State University where he was a two-year starter. Professionally, Alberts plays for Djurgardens IF in Sweden who signed him in 2019.
Rem Bakamus, RS Sr G: A fan favorite of the bench mob, Bakamus made a name for himself as the hype man on the best bench in the nation. Following graduation, Bakamus spent a year working at Scorebook Live before his basketball itch returned. In 2018, former Gonzaga director of basketball operations and current Baylor University assistant coach John Jakus offered him a grad assistant gig. Bakamus is entering his third year in this position while he wraps up his sport pedagogy degree.
Jack Beach, So G: Beach redshirted the 2016-17 season. The Torrey Pines High School grad quickly filled the Rem Bakamus-sized hole in the handshake line and earned GU fans a handful of free tacos with garbage time 3s over his career. The San Diego product currently works as a Regional Manager for SBLive Sports.
Zach Collins, Fr F/C: The first one-and-done in Gonzaga history, Collins was one of the premier shot blockers in the nation during his lone season in Spokane. Following a stellar NCCA Tournament, the Las Vegas native was drafted tenth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings and was traded on draft night to the Portland Trailblazers. Currently playing his third season in the Rose City, the 22-year-old averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season.
Ryan Edwards, RS Jr C: Appearing in 17 games during the season, the 7-1 Kalispell, Montana, product transferred to Portland State University following the season. As a Viking, Edwards averaged 9.7 points and 4 boards in 30 starts. After his collegiate eligibility ran out, Edwards signed with CB Valls in Spain who he last played for in 2019.
Rui Hachimura, Fr F: Despite not playing much in his freshmen season, Hachimura blossomed into a superstar for the Zags. Spending his sophomore campaign as an offensive dynamo in the sixth man role, Hachimura collected a cornucopia of accolades his junior year including Second Team All-American, WCC Player of the Year, and finalist for both the Julius Erving Award and the Naismith Trophy. The Washington Wizards made Hachimura the second lottery pick on this squad by selecting him ninth in the 2019 NBA Draft. Hachimura averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in his rookie season.
Jeremy Jones, RS So F: The former Rice University quarterback, Jones became the epitome of the ‘glue guy’ in Mark Few’s squads over his career. Most memorably, Jones scored a crucial 14 points against Illinois in the 2018 Maui Invitational to help the Zags advance. Jones signed with Kapfenberg Bulls in Austria in August 2019.
Przemek Karnowski, RS Sr C: - The NCAA’s all-time leader in wins, Karnowski anchored one of the nation’s best backcourts his senior season. Following a stellar senior campaign where he averaged 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and one block per game, Karnowski signed with Morabanc Andorra of Liga ACB in Spain. After one season, Karnowski returned home to Poland with Zielona Gora of the Polish Basketball League.
Jacob Larsen, Fr C: This center hailing from Denmark, Larsen redshirted the 2016-17 season following a knee injury. Larsen bounced back the next season to appear in 34 games, yet departed the team to focus on academics prior to the 2018-19 season.
Jordan Mathews, Sr G: - The hero of GU’s nail-biting win over West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen, Mathews led the squad with 85 3-pointers. The graduate transfer from University of California, Berkeley spent one season in the G-League with the then Erie Bayhawks before departing for Europe where he played the 2019-20 season with Vanoli Cremon of Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A.
Silas Melson, Jr G: A do-it-all guard for Few, Melson played significant minutes across all for years of his GU career. The Jefferson High School graduate started every game of his senior season, scoring in double figures 15 times. A lockdown on-ball defender, Melson signed a professional contract with Greek outfit Lavrio after graduation and currently plays for Kouvot in Finland.
Zach Norvell Jr., Fr G: The epitome of a microwave scorer, Norvell redshirted the 2016-17 season following leg surgery. Once fully healthy, Norvell showcased his scoring touch exploding for 28 points against Ohio State University in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Following a sophomore campaign that earned All-WCC First Team honors, Norvell went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft and signed with the Lakers. Norvell appeared for the Golden State Warriors on a 10-day deal during the 2019-20 NBA season and currently plays for their G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz.
Josh Perkins, RS So G: One of the greatest guards to don a GU jersey, Perkins started 35 games of the Zag’s run to the national title. Perkins led the team in minutes both his redshirt junior and senior seasons, en route to becoming GU’s all-time assist leader. The Park Hill product spent the 2019-20 season in the G-League with the Greensboro Swarm and Texas Legends and recently signed for GTK Gliwice in Poland.
Killian Tillie, Fr F: A four-year contributor with deadeye range from three, Tillie was a crucial piece off the bench for Few’s runner-up squad. Despite dealing with multiple injuries over his college career, the Parisian’s talent was never in question, punctuated by his incredible WCC tournament performance as a junior. Currently, Tillie is working out in preparation for the 2020 NBA Draft.
Dustin Triano, RS Jr G: A walk-on hailing from Canada, Triano is the son of current Charlotte Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano. The younger Triano transferred to Western Oregon University for his final year of eligibility and started 31 games. Currently, he is the assistant men’s basketball coach at South Delta Secondary School in Delta, B.C.
Jonathan Williams, RS Jr F: In his first season of eligibility following his transfer from Missouri, Williams started all 39 games of GU’s historic run. After earning AP All-American Honorable Mention honors as a senior, he spent one season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Currently, Williams again shares a front court with Hachimura on the Washington Wizards.
Nigel Williams-Goss, RS Jr, G: The floor general of the squad, Williams-Goss averaged 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game en route to WCC Player of the Year and second-team All-American honors. The Utah Jazz selected the University of Washington transfer 55th overall in the 2017 NBA draft, but Williams-Goss ended up signing a two-year deal with Serbian outfit Partizan, where he was named Serbian Cup MVP in 2018. Following a season in Greece with Olympiakos, Williams-Goss signed with the Utah Jazz where he has appeared in nine games so far this season.
With just as much depth, talent and leadership on the current squad, it'll be must-watch TV to see if the Zags surpass the heights of the 2016-17 season.