SPOKANE (NCAA/FIBA Americas Championship) - Kelly Olynyk didn’t play any games for Gonzaga last season.
That doesn’t mean the Canada international failed to improve as a basketball player for the Zags.
On that topic, there is no debate.
After deciding, along with coach Mark Few and his father, Ken, that he would sit out a season (redshirt) and thus still have two years of eligibility remaining at Gonzaga, Olynyk worked as hard as he ever had to get better.
The result has been spectacular.
The 2.13m Canada international has been sensational in 2012-13 for the Zags, averaging 17.7 points and 6.8 rebounds this season in 25.3 minutes per game.
He is shooting a West Coast Conference best 65.2% from the floor.
The decision to redshirt was the right one.
"I wanted to work on my body, work on a bunch of skills," Olynyk said.
"And also, there were a couple of players on my team in front of me, NBA-level caliber players.
"The minutes just weren't there, so it was also to create an opportunity for myself."
The fans see that Olynyk, who grew up as a point guard before having an incredible growth spurt in high school, is better.
Gonzaga’s strength and conditioning coach, Travis Knight, has helped him take a giant step forward.
Speaking to the Seattle Times, Knight said it was "almost as if his mind wanted to do something, and his body couldn't yet.”
Knight used a drill with tennis balls to help the big man.
He threw balls marked "R" or "L" at Olynyk, forcing him to catch it with his right or left hand. Knight made the drills even more complicated and saw that all the while, Olynyk was benefitting.
"We all knew something special was coming," Knight said.
Olynyk has improved so much that some are projecting him as a first-round pick in the NBA.
He’s a big man player that can shoot the three, but also put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.
Olynyk, who turns 22 in April, has tremendous potential.
His development is good news for Canada.
He has featured for the senior national team already.
Olynyk played at the 2010 FIBA World Championship as a 19-year-old and the following summer in Mar del Plata, he was in the Canada squad that competed at the FIBA Americas Championship.
There is a very good chance Olynyk will once again be with the national team this summer in Caracas, Venezuela, at the FIBA Americas Championship, a qualifying event for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images