The good news is, Gonzaga loses only three student-athletes to graduation.
The bad news is, all three played huge roles in Gonzaga's success and leave giant shoes behind to be filled. They will be sorely missed.
ALEX HERNANDEZ came to Gonzaga by way of Casper Junior College in Casper, Wyoming, where he was an offensive force in the JuCo ranks. Before junior college, Alex starred in high school at Las Vegas, earning 1st-team All-State honors in Nevada, averaging nearly 30 points per game. His impact as a Zag was immediate. Alex started right away as a junior at GU and eventually became the first man off the bench to provide instant offense like a shot in the arm. During his first year at GU, Alex would come into his own and start scoring 15 to 18 points per game, just when Gonzaga needed it most: tournament time. Whether it be a 3-point shot from the left corner or a layup on a cutting drive to the hoop, Hernandez became a weapon for the Zags, and a problem for opponents. His performances in the 2001 WCC Tournament and the 2001 NCAA Tournament were the stuff of long-remembered careers. He played a critical part in helping Gonzaga reach its third straight Sweet Sixteen. Who can forget Alex proclaiming on national television (CBS), "This is the Sweet Sixteen, man! This is what it's all about!" That big smile was never more genuine. In his senior year, Alex would turn his attention to defense and rebounding, yet turning on his natural offense-minded ability when needed. His game against Big-12 power Texas in the Great Alaska Shootout was a perfect example of this. The emotional and sometimes fiery 6'4" wing bounced the ball a few times too many (most memorably at The Pit in New Mexico) but he more than redeemed himself with great efforts on both ends of the court the rest of the way. Slowly, Alex had developed into a complete player, making steals, grabbing rebounds, finishing shots, nailing treys, executing the offense smartly, cutting open for easy layins along the baseline...
DAN DICKAU answered every Zag fans' prayers when he first stepped onto the court wearing a Gonzaga uniform. How in the world would the Zags possibly replace a star point guard like Matt Santangelo? Enter Mr. Dickau. Perhaps the finest shooter to pass through Gonzaga, Dickau simply did it all. A top-75 high school prospect in Vancouver, WA, Dan spent two years at the University of Washington before transfering to GU. Because of Dan, GU wouldn't miss a beat in the backcourt. With an incredibly high "basketball IQ" and a deep understanding of what it takes to win, Dickau thrived in clutch situations and big-time games. Never was this more evident than when he missed several games because of a broken finger. GU would struggle. After Dickau's return, GU would lose one game in conference play and not lose again until the Sweet Sixteen. Game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-point daggers against San Diego and Saint Joseph's will never be forgotten, along with a variety of highlights ranging from clutch free-throws down crucial stretches and amazing scoring binges, including a 34 point outburst against LMU. Even hostile fans would start cheering for him. It's impossible to imagine Gonzaga without Dan Dickau from 2000 through 2002. No wonder he is a Wooden Award Finalist, an All-American Candidate, a Naismith Award Finalist and probable WCC Player of the Year for 2001-2002. There has only been one other floor general at Gonzaga to compare with Dan.
ANTHONY REASON came to Gonzaga by way of Compton Junior College in California after high school in Ocala, FL. An immediate impact player at 6'6", Anthony provided much-needed spark and emotion off the bench during his first year at Gonzaga. His defensive prowess and sheer athlete ability was just what the Zags would need. Who can forget Reason's slam-dunks against Pepperdine in 2001 and the rush of instant emotion he injected into the team? With a high vertical, Anthony became a rebounding force inside, tipping in missed shots on offense and snatching balls way above the rim on defense. And nobody could finish a fast break alley-oop jam better than Reason. He runs the floor like a jet fighter. As his senior year unfolded, Anthony became a starter and was given the top defensive duties by the coaching staff: guard the opposing team's best player/scorer. Reason would rise to the challenge, limiting scorers like Marquette's Dywane Wade to half his average, stifling UW's Doug Wrenn to single digits, holding St. Joseph's Marvin O'Connor to almost nothing, and many, many more with similar results. Oh, and Anthony can hit the trey any time he wishes. But Zags Hoops is expecting this senior to earn WCC Defensive Player of the Year in 2002. We'd be shocked if he didn't.
The passion and inspiration of these three seniors will be missed yet remembered forever. Alex, Dan and Anthony are unique from each other and they all bring different things to the table, but there is no doubt what all three share equally: the winning attitude of a Gonzaga Bulldog.
All three are role models off the basketball court as well.
So enjoy watching these three Zags in the final two home games in The Kennel, then the remaining games on the road, and thank them for all they've done for Gonzaga. They will have won well over 50 games in two years.