Julian Strawther's Sin City success story for the Zags

click to enlarge Julian Strawther is making his presence felt in the early stages of his sophomore season. - ERICK DOXEY
Erick Doxey
Julian Strawther is making his presence felt in the early stages of his sophomore season.

The narrative surrounding the Zags’ week in Las Vegas centered on one of two items, either the big games against highly ranked opponents or the battle of freshman phenoms Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero. The real star of the show however was one of Sin City’s own.

Sophomore guard Julian Strawther has been having a breakout campaign so far this season, and over three games in Vegas, in front of national television audiences, he put the college basketball world on notice.

“When you’re a kid, you always want to play in the biggest games, in the biggest arenas, in the biggest events. The fact that we’re here, in my hometown, playing in the biggest arena that we could and playing in some of the biggest games, it means everything. Especially to have all my family out there cheering and smiling and having a good time. It just means the world,” Strawther said.


He gave his hometown fans something to cheer about, all right, averaging 15.7 points over three games in Vegas and erupting for a career high 20 points against Duke on Friday. As a result, Strawther returns to Spokane as the second-leading scorer on the team this season.

Coaches, fans and everyone around Gonzaga basketball expected a breakout season from Strawther, but I’m not sure anyone saw him making this big of a splash so soon. Last season, Strawther logged just 186 minutes over 25 games. When the Zags found themselves in a dogfight, Strawther normally found himself stuck on the bench. He was a healthy scratch from five games last season, including three postseason contests.

This year, over the first seven games, he’s already surpassed his minutes total from last season. Strawther is playing more, which is obvious when you watch the games, but he’s also become one of the Zags’ most lethal weapons offensively. Often, when a player sees a massive increase in playing time or in usage, as Strawther has this season, their efficiency numbers can take a bit of a dip. Strawther’s have done just the opposite; he’s carrying more weight than he did last season and delivering at a better clip, too.

Looking at the stats like points scored or minutes played, it’s clear that Strawther has made a massive jump. But those don’t tell the full story, since he played so little last year it would have been almost impossible for those numbers not to rise this year. More impressive are the jumps he’s made in the statistics that aren’t tied to how long he’s been on the floor.


His free throw percentage (75%) and three point percentage (47.2%) are both up compared with last year. His assist rate is higher than it was, and his turnover rate is lower, which combined just compounds his positive impact. Most importantly, his offensive rating has shot through the roof. Last year he posted a respectable 111.7 rating. This season, he’s 49th in the country and second on the team at 137.9. Simply put, that means for every 100 possessions Strawther plays, he’s responsible for producing 137.9 points, which is a lot.

Last year, Strawther was stuck behind a log jam of talented, experienced players. This year, the Zags are once again loaded, but this year it’s Strawther who is part of that log jam, and he’s shining in his expanded role within it.

GONZAGA’S WEEK AHEAD

The Zags host Tarleton State, from Stephenville, Texas, Monday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised locally on KHQ and regionally on ROOT Sports.

On Saturday the Zags will face No. 10-ranked Alabama in the 14th edition of the once-annual Battle in Seattle — the former tradition was on hiatus for the past five seasons. The game tips off at 5 pm and will be televised on ESPN2.

Corpus Christi @ Stage Left Theater

Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 6
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