The young forward quickly earned the coaching staff’s trust after parachuting into the team in the middle of the season a year earlier than anticipated.
This winter Ben Gregg found himself in a position he never really thought he would be in last summer before he had signed his national letter of intent—playing in the NCAA Tournament with a Gonzaga jersey on rather than wrapping up his senior campaign at Clackamas High School.
With his senior year of high school essentially lost due to the pandemic and all of his graduation requirements already taken care of, a door opened for Gregg to head up to Spokane a little earlier than anticipated and enroll at Gonzaga in December where he could begin working out with the team.
When Gregg’s early arrival was announced, his addition felt like the cherry on top for a roster that was currently blitzing its way through college basketball and destined for the Final Four.
While the front court depth behind Drew Timme and Anton Watson was a little spotty, Oumar Ballo and Pavel Zakharov were already into their second seasons with Gonzaga and Gregg was very young and should have been playing high school ball. Gregg was a highly rated recruit, finishing inside the Top 60 per ESPN’s rankings, but there weren’t any serious expectations for him for the remainder of the season beyond getting an early start on his development and learning how to play college basketball. The sense for this writer was that if Gregg hit the floor for Gonzaga over the remainder of the season, something either went very wrong or the Zags were playing in a massive blowout.
Of the 55 total minutes that Gregg logged for the Zags during the season, the majority did come in mop-up duty. However, by February he had gained the coaching staff’s trust and jumped ahead of Ballo, who had injured his thumb, and Zakharov, who was never able to grab a larger role in the rotation. Gregg was handed a handful of appearances in the first half of games while they were still competitive, and proved to be competitive himself while flashing the shooting ability that makes a very projectable stretch 4—a player archetype that has thrived in Gonzaga’s system.
With Ballo following Tommy Lloyd to Arizona and Zakharov transferring to Cal Baptist in Southern California in search of playing time, Gregg’s early arrival in December now feels like a fortunate development rather than a lucky bonus. The jumpstart he was able to get on embedding into the program, learning the scheme and the coaching staff’s expectations, and working on his strength and skill development will allow him to be lightyears ahead of where he would have been had he arrived at Gonzaga on his initial timeline this summer.
Gonzaga will benefit greatly from the work that Gregg has done over the last few months, and he’ll be ready to grab an even bigger role in his first full season alongside Chet Holmgren, Drew Timme (presumably), and his initial recruiting classmate Kaden Perry. Considering the strides that Gregg made in just a short period of time after parachuting into a championship-caliber team during the middle of a season, it is exciting to think about where Gregg and his game will be when the new season tips off. Wherever it is, he’ll be much further along than he was ever expected to be just 8 months ago.