Preseason Zag notes from the banquet circuit

Attended the Tacoma edition of the Gonzaga alumni office’s series of coaches basketball gatherings Thursday night in Tacoma, featuring women’s assistant Stacy Clinesmith and men’s aide Donny Daniels. About 100 attended, a nice turnout – which apparently was in contrast to a tepid response in Seattle and Portland (what, they aren’t winning enough for you folks?)

“Twenty years,” Daniels said, referring to Gonzaga’s 20-year string of NCAA tournaments. “I’m telling you, this does not happen in the United States of America. To sustain this for as long as Mark (Few) has . . . this does not happen everywhere.”

More Daniels thoughts on Zag personnel:

-- Rui Hachimura. “He’s played basketball his whole life, but he’s really only played the last two years, as far as structure and competition," Daniels said. "He’s come a long way, but by no means is he a finished product." Referring to Hachimura’s two-game trip to Korea to play for the Japanese nationals in September, Daniels said lightly, “He’s got the weight of Gonzaga on his shoulders, he’s got the weight of Japan on his shoulders.”

-- Josh Perkins. “He’s going to be the catalyst for what we do,” Daniels said. Noting that Perkins has recovered from spring shoulder surgery, he said, “He’s been there four years, and he’s always answered the bell. Knee, shoulders, back, he’s had it all.” Daniels says that with 35 victories this year – “we’ve done it, but nothing’s ever guaranteed” – Perkins would become the all-time winningest college player. Checking the math, I come up with something slightly different, and Friday, I was unable to confirm. I have Przemek Karnowski having been a part of 137 Gonzaga victories, and Perkins with an even 100.

-- Killian Tillie. “He got hurt in practice (shoulder) before the Florida State game (in the Sweet 16),” Daniels said. “it was a blessing in disguise. We got beat by Florida State, but Tillie couldn’t work out for any NBA teams for the next six weeks.” Tillie gets a lot of prompting from coaches to be more physical.

-- Zach Norvell. Daniels marveled at how Norvell, struggling last year against Creighton, missed a free throw – on which a sub was waiting to enter the game for him – and Norvell went on to nail two straight threes, launching three straight 20-point-plus games against the Blue Jays, Villanova and Washington. “It’s amazing how life turns,” Daniels said. “If he makes that foul shot, he comes out.” It’s a slimmer “Snacks” this year, Daniels says, but he still has a knack for taking the tough shot even after a down game. “That’s in the DNA,” Daniels says. “Some people have it, some don’t.”

-- Brandon Clarke. “He’ll be one of the best shot-blockers Gonzaga’s ever had,” Daniels said. “He has a great feel for staying down, staying down and then going up. He’s a quick jumper.” Clarke is a scorer, but he’s not likely to lead the team in assists, Daniels said. “When Brandon catches the ball, he’s a black hole. It never comes out.”

-- Corey Kispert. The GU coaches would like to see more offensive rebounding, but Daniels says Kispert has showed some of the same flashes that he did a year ago before a sprained ankle early in the season derailed him. “Right now, he’s playing really, really well,” Daniels said. Recalling Kispert’s preseason a year ago, Daniels said, “Before he got hurt, he was gangbusters. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

-- Geno Crandall. “He’ll be that all-around guy,” Daniels said. “He’s playing to his ability, and he has ability. He’s quick, he can get in a stance and guard, he can make plays, put pressure on the defense in transition. He gives us a legitimate, ball-handling guard. He can hit a three. The ball doesn’t come out of his hand great, but it can go down. He’s a great kid who fits in with our guys well.”

-- Filip Petrusev: “He’ll be a classic Gonzaga forward. He shoots threes, he puts the ball on the ground. He’s got to get more physical and he’s got this laid-back, step-back shot that we’re not real fond of now. But he’s going to be a very good player.”

Daniels noted the athleticism and length of true freshman guard Greg Foster, and said his development over the next few weeks will determine whether he redshirts. Joel Ayayi, who redshirted last year, “will get some minutes,” Daniels said, “but Crandall is pretty good. Everything changed when Geno got here. You take a fifth-year guy, you kind of commit to him, although him getting here this late, the commitment is not as great as if he’d got here in August.”

Daniels says big man Jacob Larsen, still on scholarship and in school but not on the roster, “is going through some life challenges that he has to figure out. We as a staff and university are supporting him.”