After two straight seasons with one-and-done freshmen stars on the roster in Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga is returning to something a little more familiar for the 2022-23 season. While there is still plenty of talent on the roster, including star senior Drew Timme, this version of the Bulldogs won't be defined externally by the potential NBA Draft status of any one player.
Instead, as coach Mark Few enters his 24th season, he'll deploy a veteran core flanked by a group of sophomores whose collective development may determine the ceiling for a program still in pursuit of its first national title. Gonzaga has at least reached the Sweet 16 in each of the past seven NCAA Tournaments, and expectations are high again as the Bulldogs sit atop the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 preseason rankings.
But Few's club does have to replace the No. 2 overall pick from June's NBA Draft in Holmgren and No. 31 overall pick Andrew Nembhard, who led the team in minutes and provided a steady hand at guard. Holmgren led the team in rebounds and blocks, while Nembhard led the team in assists. So who is poised to step in and thrive amid those losses?
As the 2022-23 college basketball season creeps nearer, here's a glimpse at how Gonzaga's starting lineup and rotation could shape up.
Projected starting lineup
1. Nolan Hickman
6-2 | 185 | Soph.
Hickman came off the bench last season while veterans like Rasir Bolton and Nembhard held down starting roles in the backcourt. He must once again fend off a seasoned transfer in Malachi Smith, but Hickman showed enough last season to suggest a breakout season could be in the cards. The former Kentucky commit posted a nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 17.2 minutes per game.
2. Rasir Bolton
6-3 | 185 | Redshirt Sr.
Bolton immediately assumed a starting role last season after transferring in from Iowa State, and he never relinquished it. He was one of the team's most consistent performers down the stretch, shooting 53.9% from the floor in February and March. It's hard to imagine the fifth-year senior being unseated in the starting lineup, even amid what could be a spirited competition for minutes in the back court.
3. Julian Strawther
6-7 | 205 | Jr.
Strawther spurned the NBA Draft to return for his junior season, and he could be in line for a nice leap in productivity. The rangy wing is an efficient scorer who improved his outside shot to 36.5% as a sophomore while contributing significantly on the boards. His size and versatility are nice, but he needs to improve as a defender in order to maximize his potential.
4. Anton Watson
6-8 | 225 | Jr.
After starting 17 of 32 games as a sophomore, Watson returned to a bench role last season while still logging 18.1 minutes per game. Now, following the departure of Holmgren, he'll have a chance to reclaim a starting spot. Though the combination of Watson and Timme isn't the most imposing in terms of shot-blocking and rim-protection, both are incredibly efficient interior scorers with good ball skills who can keep the Gonzaga offense humming.
5. Drew Timme
6-10 | 235 | Sr.
Timme is already Gonzaga's all-time leader in NCAA Tournament points and is coming back for more after winning WCC Player of the Year last season. Unless he starts taking and making more 3-pointers or suddenly improves his later quickness to become a defensive stalwart, Timme will remain of low-interest to NBA franchises. But he'll be in the mix for national player of the year honors in the college game and could cap an illustrious career with the ultimate exclamation point if he can lead Gonzaga to its first-ever national title.
6-4 | 205 | Redshirt Jr.
As the Zags bid farewell to Holmgren and the roster's balance of power naturally shifts back toward the guards, having Smith on the roster will be huge. He averaged 19.9 points while earning Southern Conference Player of the Year honors for an NCAA Tournament team at Chattanooga last season and finished No. 11 in our ranking of the sport's top transfers. He's slotted as a bench option here, but Few has a ton of possibilities with his back court configuration, and Smith is plenty capable of cracking the starting lineup.
6-5 | 175 | Soph.
Like Hickman, Sallis entered as a highly touted true freshman last season and played off the bench behind Gonzaga's more-seasoned guards. The return of Bolton and the addition of Smith may mean that a starting role remains at least another season away. But Nembhard led the team with 32.6 minutes per game last season, and his departure could mean that Sallis is in line for a bigger piece of the pie after logging 13.6 minutes per contest as a freshman.
6-11 | 238 | Soph.
Reid started all 34 games he played as a true freshman at LSU last season after finishing the 2021 recruiting cycle ranked No. 32 in the class by 247Sports. His length is a welcome addition to the roster as the Zags grapple with the defensive impact of losing Holmgren's 3.7 blocks per game. Reid isn't nearly as prolific — he averaged 0.8 blocks in 19.6 minutes per game last season — but he's a promising front-line player who could grow into a starring role if he sticks around after Timme's eventual departure.
6-10 | 225 | Redshirt-Soph.
Minutes may still be scarce for Gregg, who made 35 appearances over his first two seasons, but the junior could carve out a role in some situations. He's a stretch big who could be called upon as foul trouble, injury or specific matchups require.
Kaden Perry | 6-9 | 225 | Soph.
Dominick Harris | 6-3 | 190 | Redshirt-Soph.
Braden Huff | 6-9 | 205 | Fr.
Perry finished the 2021 recruiting cycle ranked No. 52 in the class, and he appeared in big games against UCLA and Duke as a true freshman before a back injury derailed his season. If he's fully healthy, it wouldn't be surprising to see him competing for minutes again this season. Huff has the makings of a long-term prospect who will eventually have a role on the Drew Timme Replacement Committee. Harris appeared in 25 contests during the 2020-21 season but missed all of last year due to injury and faces a tough battle for minutes at guard.
Gonzaga lost some key players but does it have enough firepower returning to make a run at the national title? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast as we discuss the Zags as part of our Summer Shootaround series.