One thing that TKR really harped on throughout the summer was the importance of the mental makeup of this team. Everyone who follows Gonzaga basketball knew how much talent this team was going to possess. However, the question of whether this team would be mentally tough enough to overcome adversity and step up to challenges still remained. If the Old Spice Classic is any indication, this team will respond to any challenge that will be presented throughout the season. It appears that it is not only Gonzaga fans who have realized this, but also the national media .
Andy Katz at ESPN wrote a terrific story about the toughness this team showed in the game against Tennessee. Andy Katz Story
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the story:
"Before, we used to hide in our shells and not punch back,'' Gonzaga fifth-year senior Josh Heytvelt said. "This game showed we've matured a lot and we're a high-level contender for the rest of the season.''
"In the past, everyone would continue to say, 'This is a finesse team,' but this year's team is more athletic and isn't backing down from anyone,'' Brown said. "We have something to prove to everyone that we can compete with the best.''
"Every year, we come in thinking that we can go deep in the tournament,'' Gonzaga junior Matt Bouldin said. "This year, the expectation is more of a reality. We see ourselves there. We just have to work to get there. We felt going into the season we were one of the best teams in the country, and now we have to keep proving it.''
Over at Fox Sports, it was more of the same praise from Jeff Goodman. Jeff Goodman Story
Some great quotes from this story:
"They're definitely a lot tougher," Vols junior forward Tyler Smith said of the 'Zags. "They wanted to get us back from last year and they came out with a lot of firepower and intensity. They proved their point tonight."
"He was mouthing off at me at the five-minute mark of the first half so I let him know I'm not going to back down," Goodson said. "I think it got our team fired up."
TKR's Take: Both of these writers are completely correct in these columns. In the past couple of years, Gonzaga has played some of the best finesse basketball in the country. However, when times got tough, the Zags tended to fold. With the leadership and toughness of Ira Brown, and the edge Meech Goodson brings to the table, it seems that this team is not prepared to back down from any challenge. The schedule this season is tough, and like any season there will certainly by ups and downs. Therefore, it is vital that this team is able to step up and respond to all the challenges they will face this season. For the first time in awhile, I have full confidence that Gonzaga will respond at the highest level.
After his MVP performance at the Old Spice Classic, there have also been some terrific columns regarding the improved leadership of Jeremy Pargo.
Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com wrote a fantastic colums that addressed the great leadership that Jeremy displayed. Gary Parrish article
Quotes from the story:
"He's one of the premier guards in the country, and this is why he came back, to play in games like this and show that he's a lot better and that he understands the game better," Few said. "He was able to hear things from the decision makers at the next level that reinforced what we were telling him."
"I had guys tell me what I needed to do to become better and make my team better," Pargo said. "We played three teams (in the Old Spice Classic) that played up-tempo and applied pressure, so I just wanted to slow everything down and keep everything under control and not get erratic or wild out there. And (though) there were some times when I wanted to go, this summer helped me learn how to control that, helped me know when to pull it back at the right times and when to go at the right times."
Bob McClellan at Rivals put together a great column about Pargo's performance at the Old Spice Classic. Bob McClellan article
Quotes from story:
"Last year we had maybe 20-23 turnovers, and I had six," Pargo said. "I wanted to control the game and make sure guys got the ball in the right areas. If we don't turn it over against a team that pressures and runs like they do you put yourself in a better position."
"He was able to hear things from the decision-makers at the next level that reassured him of what we're telling him, that he doesn't need to score to dominate a game. He needs to just quarterback this club. He scored when he needed to score when we were struggling there a little bit at the midpart of the first half. Then he handled their pressure and got our guys some great shots. Some of those wide-open 3s were because of him, simple setups. It's a great sign of maturity."
TKR's Take: The most important thing I took from the Old Spice Classic was the maturity and leadership that Jeremy displayed throughout the tournament. As one of the article mentions, the NBA is looking for a 6'2 scorer. It seems that Jeremy has embraced both what the coaching staff and the NBA scouts have been preaching and is looking to establish himself as one of the premier floor generals in the nation. I can honestly say that Jeremy is playing the best he has every playing in his GU career, and really has positioned himself as one of the elite PG's in the country.