Skip to content

Kelly Olynyk, the nation’s most improved player

Jan 6, 2013, 11:15 AM EDT

Kelly Olynyk

After winning at Santa Clara last night, No. 10 Gonzaga improved 15-1 on the season, with a pair of road wins to kick off WCC play.

They are ranked 13th according to Kenpom, a number that could climb drastically if the Zags can ever put together enough defensive stops to improve their defensive efficiency, which is currently sitting at 61st in the country. That’s because Gonzaga is the third-most efficient offensive team in the country, which, frankly, is an incredible fact when you take a look at the season that some of their best players are having.

Kevin Pangos, who many expected to have a Dan Dickau-esque career in Spokane, has seen his scoring dip to 11.8 points, a number that was significantly bolstered by the 54 points he scored in wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor in the last week of December. Gary Bell Jr. has seen his three-point shooting drop from 47.7% to 34.4%. Elias Harris is having an excellent season despite the fact that he’s hit just 3-19 from beyond the arc.

The difference this year?

Kelly Olynyk, a 7-foot Canadian that has gone from a a seldom-used sophomore to a redshirt year to a potential WCC Player of the Year as a junior. There isn’t a more improved player in the country.

Olynyk is averaging a team-high 17.1 points while also chipping in 6.6 boards. He’s shooting 71.1% from inside the arc and 81.4% from the charity stripe. Perhaps more importantly, he’s played his best basketball against Gonzaga’s toughest competition while developing a knack from taking over down the stretch. He had all 22 of his points in the second half of a comeback win at Washington State. He had all 21 of his points in the second half of a win at Oklahoma State. He had 12 of his 21 points in the second half of a win over Baylor, sparking the game-changing run with 10 minutes left in the game. He went for 20 in a win over Kansas State.

Olynyk’s best game of the season came on Saturday night, as he finished with a career-high 33 points while adding 10 boards, the first time in his career that Olynyk has notched a double-double against a Division I opponent. (He had 11 points and 10 boards in a win over Lewis & Clark.)

With a front line that includes Harris, Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga has a front line with as much size and versatility as any team in the country.

But if it wasn’t for Olynyk’s development, they wouldn’t be seriously discussed as a top ten team in the country.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. UNLV awaiting two important personnel decisions in its front court

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:27 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Wood returning would ensure that this young but talented front line wouldn’t lack for experience.

  2. Missouri receives commitments from two John A. Logan College players

    Apr 18, 2015, 8:56 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Missouri is hopeful that these two junior college products can help them rebound from a tough 2014-15.

  3. Vermont signee injured in car crash speaks first words in more than ten weeks

    Apr 18, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT

    Vermont Athletics Vermont Athletics

    Josh Speidel hadn’t spoken since the crash February 1. His first word: “Mom.”

  4. Three-star forward Rapolas Ivanauskas becomes Northwestern’s first 2016 commitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Chris Collins and his staff have done a good job of recruiting local talent, and they reeled in another player Saturday.

  5. 2016 New Mexico commit Mitch Lightfoot decides to reopen recruitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Craig Neal Craig Neal

    Lightfoot was on the receiving end of offers from Arizona State and Utah before committing to UNM, and the new staff at ASU has already reached out to him.

  6. Former Cornell forward Shonn Miller headed to UConn for final season of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte4mwi1zmrlntq4ndc4yjfiywyzztq3zgnhzgfhmgu0 AP

    Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and he’s an important addition for the UConn front court.

  7. Five members of Iowa State’s 2014-15 team have been arrested after two more arrests this week

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dustin Hogue AP

    More arrests at Iowa State as two more members of the 2014-15 roster were charged within the last week.

  8. Boise State star granted fifth year of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Anthony Drmic AP

    Boise State received some encouraging news this week as Anthony Drmic is returning for another season.

  9. Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hammons’ decision to return makes the Boilermakers a Top 25 team.

  10. Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan will earn his degree this spring

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Eddie Jordan AP

    Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan has been taking classes at the school in order to complete his degree.

  11. Storylines from the Jordan Brand Classic: Diallo claims another MVP; Briscoe wins over crowd

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    2015 Jordan Brand Classic Getty Images

    A look at the top storylines from the 14th annual Jordan Brand Classic.

  12. Illinois lands commitment from Charlotte graduate transfer big man Mike Thorne Jr.

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    Kacinas Thorne AP

    Illinois landed a huge graduate transfer on Saturday.

  13. Report: Coppin State graduate transfer Sterling Smith will visit four programs

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Sterling Brown, Rashad Smith AP

    Coppin State junior guard Sterling Smith is looking like a prime graduate transfer.

  14. Five-star Kentucky commit believes the NCAA will clear him to play

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Kentucky five-star big man Skal Labissiere believes that the NCAA will allow him to play this season.

  15. West defeats East 118-116 in the Jordan Brand Classic

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:23 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cheick Diallo won named MVP for both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.

  16. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg undergoes successful open heart surgery

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hoiberg just completed his fifth season at Iowa State.

  17. Gonzaga big man to return for senior season

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Domantas Sabonis previously announced he would return.

  18. Top plays from the Jordan Brand Classic practice

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    diallo

    The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

  19. Duke among list of candidates for graduate transfer guard

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The former Villanova guard cut his list to eight.