If you watched Gonzaga basketball last year, you know that the interior post play was not a strength for the Bulldogs. Hopes are still high because of one player: Robert Sacre. Sacre, a sophomore from North Vancouver, British Columbia, earned his way into the starting lineup his freshman year and showed signs that he could be the next great Gonzaga center. Recruited heavily out of high school, Sacre was offered scholarships by UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame, and many others. Sacre's most outstanding performace last year came against the University of Connecticut, where he played 26 minutes and scored 9 points and added a couple of rebounds. The most impressive part of his performance was the fact that he played so well against against Hasheem Thabeet, one of the best centers in the nation. Zag Nation is definitely expecting to see more of that performance his sophomore season as he is to be a huge piece of this (hopefully) final four puzzle.
Strengths: Typically in college basketball, freshman centers who are 7 feet tall are extremely thin and need a year to get their body in the right form. This is not the case for Sacre who is a physical specimen. He's listed at 7 ft, 255 pounds and he is definitely every pound of that. This allowed him to get into the lineup early his freshman year and will help his development going forward as he is already used to his body type. With his size, Sacre is a very physical post player. He is able to get down low and bang with the best and holds his ground very well. His ability to bang down low gives Gonzaga fans hope for another great back the basket center ala J.P. Batista. Since Batista's departure, Gonzaga has been forced to play smaller and without a dominant force in the post and Sacre should be able to provide that. One thing which is not mentioned on the stat sheets is the outstanding character of Sacre. He is a fun player to watch on the court because anyone can tell that he gets what this game is all about. He has stepped in and become a vocal leader on this team and has really brought a lot of energy to this team. You can rest assured that Sacre leave it all on the floor each and every game he plays in.
Room for Improvement: No one can expect a 7 footer to come in to college his first year and dominate right away (unless your name is Oden). Thus, Sacre has a few areas for improvement. He made freshman mistakes last year and often seemed to rush when the ball was given to him in the post causing turnovers for the Bulldogs. Many times he would receive the ball and fumble with it, allowing for opponents to steal it away. With a year of experience under his belt and a whole summer to get more comfortable in the offense, I really expect this problem to be taken care of by next season. Staying on the offensive side, Sacre tended to show some instances of stone hands. This is undoubtedly related to being a freshman and rushing plays but in order to be a successful back to the basket scoring threat, Sacre has got to learn how to soften those hands up and keep the ball tight. Calling up J.P. Batista and asking for some pointers may not be a bad place to start. Defensively, Sacre struggled last season with committing bad fouls by being out of position. Once again, getting comfortable with the college game should fix this problem but many times last season we saw him picking up "dumb" fouls because he was undisciplined in the interior. Once he understands that he is the biggest guy on the court, we should see a lot less fouls from Mr. Sacre.
Projected Role: This is one of the biggest question marks going into the season. Many believe that Sacre will start along side Josh Heytvelt and form a twin towers for the Bulldogs. However, Few showed last season that he loved the three guard lineup of Pargo, Bouldin, and Gray and that would mean the other two spots would be "reserved" for Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. I believe that Sacre will be a starter for Gonzaga this season if he makes the jump that the coaching staff believes he will. He will have a huge role and will help open up Heytvelt's game more because now Josh can play the power forward and play with a more face to the basket mentality.
Summer Assignment: Breaking down the freshman last week was simple. Weight room, weight room, weight room! Everyone knows the Robert Sacre does not need any significant improvement in the weight room but he still needs a great deal of time spent in the gym. He needs to work hard with the Gonzaga coaching staff and work on his interior game, especially on the offensive side. He was taken out early from many games because he was an offensive liability but if he improves on that he should get significant minutes each and every game. He could also use work on his free throw shooting as that was a problem not only for Sacre, but for many Gonzaga players.