Gonzaga bigs pushing back in coaches’ free-throw competition
March 22, 2023 Updated Wed., March 22, 2023 at 7:54 p.m.
Gonzaga graduate assistant J.P. Batista smiles after finishing a round of pushups after losing a free-throw competition to the bigs at Wednesday’s practice at T-Mobile Arena. (By Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. is in excellent shape some 12 years after his professional career. So is J.P. Batista, who is in his first season as a GU graduate assistant after playing professionally for 16 seasons.
The two were seen doing pushups late in Wednesday’s practice at T-Mobile Arena, a week after doing the same at Ball Arena in Denver on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
They probably didn’t mind a bit, but it wasn’t to enhance their strong frames. It’s become a practice ritual for Powell to challenge Gonzaga’s bigs to hit 10 consecutive free throws.
If the bigs come through, Powell and Batista drop and do 25 pushups. If they fail, the bigs are the ones doing pushups.
Powell tries to mess with the players, throwing passes off line or doubling down on the number of pushups. The bigs have been up to the task, despite Powell’s attempts to distract them.
“I hold the ball, I call timeout,” Powell said. “If they miss, all they have to do is 10 pushups.”
The bigs did their fair share of pushups earlier this season, but they’ve been on a roll lately, led by Timme, who has connected on 73.1% at the line over the past 12 games.
“The last one or two Roger will put 15 or 20 pushups on it, and he’s doing all this extra stuff like holding the ball or passing it around before we shoot,” senior forward Anton Watson said. “We haven’t missed a free throw in that thing one time.
“Early on, they might have got us a couple times, that was at the beginning of the season. Drew’s been hitting his free throws. I’m trying to hit my free throws.”
Strawther still smiling
Junior wing Julian Strawther initially thought he’d lost his two front teeth when he got popped in the mouth late in Gonzaga’s 84-81 second-round victory over TCU on Sunday in Denver.
Shortly after the game ended, he was seen trying to get the bleeding stopped in his mouth inside the locker room. Turns out, Strawther’s front teeth are still in place, with an assist going to his retainer.
“They came a little loose,” he said. “I think my retainer (for braces) saved me. If I didn’t have my retainer in, I think both of my front teeth would have been gone. Coach (Mark) Few and Hunter (Sallis) have been giving me some grief about my teeth.”
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