Zach Collins was a McDonald’s All American last year but he was, for the most part, an unknown commodity entering the season as far as draft prospects are concerned.
Rivals ranked him 21st in the 2016 high school class and there wasn’t a lot of expectation the seven-footer would get a prominent role right away at Gonzaga, with stalwart Przemek Karnowski returning for a fifth year of eligibility and highly touted transfer Johnathan Williams becoming available after sitting out a year.
He was even expected to face some competition for the third big spot in the rotation, with Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura – two players who have impressed in FIBA junior events – also joining the program.
But Collins did break out immediately and while his playing time was still limited (just 17.3 minutes per game) due to the two veterans ahead of him in the pecking order and his constant foul trouble, the 19-year-old showed enough promise in his one year of college basketball to end up ranked 12th in Draft Express’ top 100.
Collins is certainly talented but he was also fortunate to join a team that put him in the best possible position to succeed. In a time where post play is getting increasingly devalued by the day, Gonzaga got a quarter of its shots coming out of the low block – as well chronicled by Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn.
With his 232 pounds well distributed over his seven-foot frame, Collins has an advanced physical profile for someone his age and was able to earn good position with his back to the basket from the get-go, though just as important was the fact that Gonzaga was a team run by veteran guards – with Jordan Matthews, Silas Melson, Josh Perkins and Nigel Williams-Goss entering the season with a combined 271 games of college basketball experience under their belts.
Collins did well demanding the ball but those ball-handlers did just as well getting it to him and that system empowered him – as he posted a 24.9% usage rate.
(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)