October 07, 2010
Unlike other top Canadian prospects who have enrolled at U.S. schools to prepare themselves for college basketball, recent Gonzaga commit Kevin Pangos has elected to remain in his native country. As a result, Pangos has flown somewhat under the radar in this country despite being named the top point guard at the U-17 World Championships this summer.
To shed some light on the 6-foot-1 senior who has drawn comparisons to countryman Steve Nash, I spoke this morning to Roy Rana, who coached Pangos on Canada's U-17 national team. Rana offered his thoughts on why Pangos chose Gonzaga, his ability to make an instant impact in college and another longtime NBA point guard whose game might be more similar to Pangos' than Nash.
JE: You had a chance to coach Kevin with Canada's U-17 team for several years. What stood out most about him as a player and person?
RR: He's a phenomenal basketball talent who I think as a point guard is going to be a major impact player, but I think more importantly what Gonzaga is getting is a guy who's going to represent that university and be a character kid. He's going to really help that program in the locker room and in the community. He's a phenomenal young man with an incredible work ethic. I'm sure he's going to get better and better under Coach Few. He's a great get for Gonzaga.
JE: You mention his character. Give me an example of something he said or did while you coached him that exemplified what you're talking about.
RR: His humility and his willingness to share in his success and his accolades. A number of times, he was almost uncomfortable with that and tried to shine the light on his coaches and his teammates. I think that's what makes everyone love him and I think in a point guard that's very important. You want to have guys around you that want to play with you, and I think Kevin's teammates love to play with him.
JE: When did you first meet Kevin and what was your first impression?
RR: I met him three or four years ago when we started the process of building the U-17 national team. You could see that he had something special. He had an excitement about the game, he was passionate, he was very respectful and attentive. He was just a sponge. He wanted to learn, he wanted to grow and he continues to be that way. He's a guy people automatically gravitate to.
JE: Gonzaga has several other Canadians on its roster including national team members Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk. How much of an impact did that have on Kevin's college choice?
RR: I think that's the biggest reason he's at Gonzaga. Knowing the relationship and the success Gonzaga kids have had with our national team program and playing for the country over the summer, I think that's huge for Kevin. Being able to see Kelly and Rob Sacre do that at the senior level and knowing that the program was going to support his aspirations to continue to play with the national team over the summer, I think that was a huge factor.
JE: The comparisons to Steve Nash are probably inevitable, but I'm sure they also put undue pressure on Kevin. How has he dealt with that?
RR: I certainly think it puts undue pressure on him and at times I think it's really difficult for him. You're being compared to a guy that nobody can be compared to. He's one of the greatest of all time at his position. From a style of play perspective, Kevin's more like a John Stockton than a Steve Nash. Very very solid, real smart player, can really shoot it, he's tough. But he'll carve out his own career. He'll carve out a name for himself.
JE: How much of an instant impact can Kevin make at Gonzaga?
RR: I think he can step in and make an impact right away there. It will be an adjustment for him like it is for any incoming freshman. He'll have bad days and he'll have good days. He'll struggle for consistently early on. But he's very adaptable and I think he very quickly will become an impact player from day one.