How the elite were built: Non Traditional

This year seven teams have dominated college basketball. In this series takes a look at how all seven were built and came together. In part III the focus is on Gonzaga who has built this roster unlike many others in college basketball.

In college basketball this year teams such as Arizona, Duke, and Kentucky have built up their rosters with elite recruits, others such as Villanova, Virginia, and Wisconsin have done it with solid recruits who were known on the AAU circuit. However Gonzaga has done it completely differently than any of those teams.


While Gonzaga does have a mix of highly thought of recruits and under the radar guys, they simply don’t fit into a category like any of the other elite teams because of how that talent has made its way to Spokane.

Maybe the most impactful thing for the Zags has been recruiting internationally. Star point guard Kevin Pangos is a native of Canada, power forward Domantas Sabonis, who is the team’s lone true big time NBA prospect, is from Lithuania, and center Prezemek Karnowski is from Poland.

What is interesting about all three of them is all were highly thought of players before making their way to Gonzaga. Pangos was recruited by a ton of American colleges, Sabonis was considered one of the best young prospects in all of Europe, and Karnowski was known as one of the biggest players and a good prospect when he came over as well. So while they weren’t necessarily household names to Americans, all three were very well known commodities to those who follow international basketball.

Along with international prospects, transfers have been huge. Most notable in this group is former Kentucky five-star signee and McDonald’s All-American Kyle Wiltjer. After two years in Lexington, Wiltjer transferred to Gonzaga and is playing a huge role on the team.

Also joining Wiltjer as an impact transfer is former USC wing Byron Wesley and former Louisville forward Angel Nunez. Wesley has had a huge impact as a graduate transfer while Nunez is a bit of role player who hasn’t had big minutes since making his way to Spokane.

In fact Gonzaga only has three American prospects that they got directly out of high school in their regular rotation. Now four-star Gary Bell Jr. was considered a great get for Gonzaga coming out of the Seattle area as a recruit, but three-stars Silas Melson and Kyle Dranginis weren’t necessarily considered impact guys.


Clearly Mark Few and his staff haven’t done it the traditional way here like most college coaches go about things. He found a few diamonds in the rough in the states, then went to Europe and Canada for some stars, while also bringing in impact transfers. It isn’t easy to build a team this way and make it all work, but Few has done a tremendous job, and now has one of the elite teams in the entire country.

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