By Ken Cross
Gonzaga’s 19-year run under coach Mark Few has really no other peer. The Bulldogs join Kansas, Michigan State, and Duke as the only four teams to make the NCAA Tournament for that period. Few has presided over six Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite Eight and he surpassed 500 wins this season.
Last Saturday, Gonzaga finally broke through with it’s first Final Four in school history after extinguishing surprising Xavier, 83-59, in the West Regional Finals in San Jose.
“I just thanked him, said ‘God bless you for believing in us,’ and God bless 3 (Jonathan Williams) and Przem (Karnowski), and Jordan (Matthews),” said Few after the win over the Musketeers, “They all took a leap of faith. That’s what it is. It’s a leap of faith. They all had great options and they believed in the culture I just spoke of. They believed in our staff, and that’s a powerful responsibility to have to take on, so it kind of weighs on you.”
Williams-Goss knew the allure of Gonzaga
Red-shirt junior Nigel Williams-Goss left Washington two years ago to come to Gonzaga and now he is the catalyst of what has been a magical Final Four season. He has averaged 16.7 points per game while leading four Bulldogs in double figures as he shot 49 percent from the floor.
He has bounced back from ankle surgery a year ago as he sat out and rehabbed and now he was able to average 32 minutes per game, the only Zag averaging over 30 minutes per game.
“We had a plan for ourselves,” said Williams-Goss, who was named to as a second-team AP All-America as well as the All-Wooden Award watch team, “We believed from day one, when we all stepped foot on this campus, that we could go to Phoenix.”
Nigel immediately embraced the culture and tradition that Few had set here as he knew the opportunity for him to win and play at a high level was going to be at Gonzaga. He had turned his game up down the stretch and into the tournament with six games of over 20 points in the last seven.
“We didn’t shy away from setting that goal, and we bought in. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew if we put in the work and we bought into the system here and listened to Coach, what he had to say for us, that we could do it.”
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 30, 2017
Writing Karnowski’s story
Przemek Karnowski came across the sea from Poland five years ago to play basketball and landed at Gonzaga. Last season, like Williams-Goss, he sat out, but with a back injury that many thought he would never recover from. He was the first up the ladder to cut the net in San Jose.
“This year has been amazing, and just like everyone mentioned before, just working with this team, with these coaches, everyone is dialed in every day,” said Karnowski, “I think our coaches do a great job preparing us, and I think all the guys stick to the game plan really good. We go out there and compete as well as we can.”