THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: Give Norvell your support, not your scorn

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Time to take the high road, Zags fans.

Look, no one can blame you for agonizing over losing Zach Norvell Jr. to the NBA draft.

Next fall’s roster will be jammed with big men — including potential All-American Killian Tillie — but Mark Few may have to pull a point guard out of thin air.

If you’re a serious booster and follow every little nuance of Gonzaga’s squad-building, you likely already know that Norvell Jr. was ticketed to slide over from the shooting guard spot to become the No. 1 ball-handler with the graduation of Josh Perkins.

When last season ended with that gutting loss to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, plenty of fans just assumed that Norvell Jr. would be back on campus this year.

Why not?

He was ranked fairly low (or nowhere) on most early mock drafts, and never projected as anything more than a potential low second-round choice — and perhaps not even that.

YET ZACH not only declared for the draft — no shock, since eligible players can now test the water without penalty — but insisted all along that he intended to stay all the way to the selection day on June 20.

Plenty of scouts have said it wasn’t a good choice, that Norvell Jr.’s stock could have risen if he’d played a full year as the Gonzaga point guard.

Meanwhile, the fan base hasn’t taken Zach’s decision very well.

Sample complaint: “What the hell is he doing?”

Besides the selfish side of it — the Zags now have a significant hole at guard — there was just the common sense piece.

Who was telling Zach that he might wind up in the NBA at the end of this process?

From a Gonzaga point of view, it seemed that Norvell Jr. was throwing away his collegiate eligibility for, well…

Maybe nothing.

Now here’s where we need to think of the young man himself, and stop complaining about this next season’s roster.

The naysayers could have been right all along.

In a couple of scrimmages last week at the NBA combine, Norvell Jr. shot decently one day (7 of 11) but chilly on another (3 of 9).

He played a total of 40 minutes, and perhaps more telling than the points, Zach was burned for nine turnovers.

You don’t need me to tell you that’s WAY too many, and it suggests that his ball-handling against potential pros is really, really suspect.

THERE WERE other discouraging signs, too.

Zach may have looked really athletic at Gonzaga, but he’s not testing that way during measurements at the combine.

Among point and shooting guards, he ranked at or near the bottom in lane agility time, shuttle run, three-quarter court sprint, max vertical and standing vertical.

NBA personnel people care about those things.

Remember when Nigel Williams-Goss chose to try the draft instead of playing a final year at Gonzaga?

Several scouts said they loved his court savvy and overall skills, but that he lacked the “explosiveness” to contend with NBA guards.

That turned out to be right on the money, and Williams-Goss is now playing in Greece — but the solid side of his game has earned him a three-year, $2 million deal.

If Zag fans disparaging Norvell Jr.’s chances at making it in the NBA think that banishment to Europe or elsewhere is some terrible fate, the fact is…

It’s a pretty cool deal.

And as long as the NCAA refuses to let south Chicago kids like Norvell Jr., earn a cent in college, the professional option always looks good — even if you won’t be guarding Steph Curry.

Let’s root for Zach to enjoy his basketball going forward.

He spent three great years in Spokane, he’s a proud Zag and the fan base should stay by his side.

He’s earned it.

Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Steve also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball once monthly during the offseason.




• Steve Cameron’s popular “Zags Tracker,” a weekly look at Gonzaga basketball, will return for a monthly appearance in The Press during the offseason, beginning Tuesday.

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