Preseason accolades continue to roll in for the Gonzaga men’s basketball team as Rasir Bolton and Malachi Smith were named to the Jerry West Award watch list on Tuesday. Both guards made the initial list of 20 candidates following exceptional campaigns in their respective roles last season.
Smith, the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, joined the Zags’ backcourt after doing a little bit of everything for Chattanooga in 2022. The redshirt junior averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 49.3% from the floor , which ranked fourth-best in the conference. His 12 points and eight rebounds against Furman were enough to send the Mocs to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons.
Smith’s career trajectory has steadily improved each year of his career, as he went from a reserve role that barely saw the floor at Wright State to the go-to guy for Chattanooga that had to control the offense. He won’t have to carry that weight on his shoulders while surrounded by so much depth and talent at each position at Gonzaga, and it’ll be interesting to see what role he takes on as the season progresses.
Similarly, Bolton’s responsibilities could be in flux after a very efficient campaign as a full-time starter. The senior led the West Coast Conference shooting 46% from deep, including 50% during conference play. At 11.2 points per game, Bolton earned an All-WCC honorable mention nod but was recently named to the conference’s preseason first team heading into the 2022-23 season.
While playing primarily off-ball alongside Andrew Nembhard last season, Bolton could very well share more ballhandling duties in the Zags’ deep backcourt rotation. Head coach Mark Few said Bolton could see action at the point guard position after Kraziness in the Kennel, which featured a good dose of pick-and-rolls with Bolton controlling the action.
There’s arguably no wrong answer regarding how Few handles his rotation of guards, as he has two of the nation’s best at his disposal.
Drew Timme, named an All-American and CBS’ Sports Preseason Player of the Year, should be in contention for either the nation’s best power forward or center award.