Kevin Pangos (Newmarket, ON) – if you’re not familiar with the name by now, you can’t call yourself an avid follower of Canadian basketball. Ever since his high school days, Pangos has been in the hoops spotlight for this country…and he has yet to disappoint.
His Gonzaga Bulldogs are currently sitting comfortably with a 13-1 record and are ranked top 10 in the nation according to the USA Today Coaches Poll as well as the AP Top 25.
This team success is in large part due to the outstanding game play of Pangos and his Canadian partner Kelly Olynyk (Kamloops, BC).
Pangos established himself as a freshmen last year earning numerous awards including WCC newcomer of the year, being named to the All-WCC first team, All-WCC freshmen team, and All-WCC tournament team.
Olynyk on the other hand did not debut in the same fashion as he only averaged 12.3 minutes per game his first year; a blessing in disguise as it pushed him to develop during his 2011-12 red-shirt, allowing for the breakout season he is having now.
Each part of the Canadian duo is averaging double figures with Pangos tallying 12.3 ppg and Olynyk topping his buddy with 15.7 ppg.
When asked how it feels to have two Canadians leading the way for a nationally ranked NCAA program like Gonzaga, Pangos told NPH: “It feels great, growing up it was rare to find Canadians making a huge impact in the NCAA. Its nice to be making a statement for Canada and showing everyone that basketball in this country is growing as well as setting a positive example for all the kids coming up.”
Just last week, Pangos and Olynyk squared up against fellow Canadian Brady Heslip of the Baylor Bears. The game went down to the wire but the Zags were victorious 94-87. Olynyk poured in 21 of his team points while Pangos exploded for a game high 31. Heslip did not have his best shooting night and punched in seven points for Baylor.
This week against #22-Ranked Oklahoma State, Pangos recorded 23 points, four rebounds and five steals, while Olynyk took over in the second half scoring all 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the 69-68 victory.
The smooth shooting stroke of Pangos is one comparable to that of Stephen Curry, the former Davidson star that bulldozed his mid-major program in to the elite 8 of the 2008 NCAA tournament. Even Kevin Ollie, current head coach of the Connecticut Huskies told ESPN, “The more I see Kevin Pangos, the more I could see him shooting the Zags deep into the NCAA tournament. He has that special shooting touch to carry a team.”
Olynyk is also solidifying himself as a force in the WCC conference and is making sure that NBA scouts don’t lose their sights on this 7’0 238 pound machine, who is shooting an astounding 67% from the field.
His transformation from being a perimeter-oriented player to a diesel inside the paint is something that has definitely helped boost his stock. Not only does he have the soft hands of a European finesse type player, but he also has the strength and physique of a dominant college big man.
Olynyk commented on his personal transformation by saying, “It took a lot work, I had to spend a lot time in the weight room working with our strength and conditioning coach. I had to work on a lot of different skills and learn how to play in the post more which I didn’t really focus on much in high school, so it was a combination of all these things that helped me become the type of player I am now.”
In the midst of all their individual success, both Pangos and Olynyk stay grounded and have their sights set on team success.
“Yeah we may be receiving all this recognition but at the end of the day we’re team first guys, its in our personalities. We want continued success as a team because that makes everyone feel good and the more we win the more we want to keep winning and see how far we can go,” said Pangos.
Together, the two make up a deadly 1-2 punch that every coach dreams to have on their team. Although the young stars arrived at Gonzaga from opposite sides of Canada, they have gelled together as if they were teammates all their lives.
And no matter what the future holds professionally for these two, Canada holds a special place in the hearts of both Pangos and Olynyk.
It should be highly likely to see these two suit up in the same uniform after their Gonzaga days are over, possibly in a jersey that sports the Canadian flag.