The Mikan Drill

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FIBA update: Kelly Olynyk

with 3 comments

I would be remiss if I did not give you a look at the third Gonzaga player playing in the FIBA World Championships, after taking a look at Elias Harris and Robert Sacre in earlier posts. After sitting the first two games, Olynyk broke out in the next 4 games and was Canada’s leading scorer in their final game against Spain.

Again, this is a small sample size of games but I was able to garner a few opinions from what I saw of Olynyk. If he can harness these games and take that back to Gonzaga, the Bulldogs could challenge for the most talented front line in the country.


Basketball IQ

Olynyk showed he knows what to do on offense without the ball and that he recognizes the situation and the appropriate movement to make.

In this next clip, Olynyk’s man provides help defense on the roll man for Canada. Olynyk notices this and cuts toward the basket which allows his teammate to give him the easy pass for the dunk.

Olynyk recognized the situation and made the right cut to give himself an easy dunk. If he did not make that cut, his teammate forces a tough shot or pass that likely results in an empty possession. Instead, Canada comes away with an easy bucket.

Here, he shows off his athleticism and ball handling as he jumps the pass and makes the steal. He makes the smart play (especially for a big man) and draws the defense, then gives the ball up on the 2 on 1. He did not get flustered but he made the smart, correct pass which drew a foul on the opposition.

It’s rare you see that kind of handle on a big man, especially one as young as Olynyk. He definitely has a lot of promise in that area and will help Gonzaga there.


Olynyk has a nice stroke, as he shot 40% (granted it was 2/5 from 3 in the games he played in). He showed he was comfortable to catch and shoot and with his height, he will be able to get his shot off when he wants to.

With the college line being closer than the international line, I can see him being able to consistently hit that shot when he is open. He has good form and looks comfortable shooting it from distance.

He shot only 4-18 from 3 last season, but it looks as though he is confident in his shot and ready to add it to his repertoire for Gonzaga. I am not sure if Mark Few will be happy to see Olynyk shooting from 3, but he definitely has the skill to take those shots. With Sacre in the post and Harris/Olynyk able to shoot from outside, they could have a great inside/out combo.

Getting to the rim

Olynyk showed the ability to get to the rim against more experienced players. Watch here as he fumbles the pass at first but recovers and beats his defender, finishes the layup and draws the contact.

Here, watch Olynyk’s ball handling skill on display once again. He grabs the rebound and takes the ball coast to coast and draws the foul.

Olynyk showed he can get to the rim and has the ability to finish against stronger players. If he can incorporate a shot fake and drive to the basket, he could become a useful offensive player and see a much bigger role for Gonzaga this year.

I think he has shown some skills on the offensive end in this tournament and it will be interesting to see if he can incorporate them into his game this fall.



Olynyk showed a bit of weakness on defense. First, watch how he does not move his feet off the ball but just reaches, which only results in him drawing a foul.

He needs to learn to move his feet to get in front of the driver to cut him off. Just reaching will only get him in foul trouble and sitting on the bench.

Next, watch how Olynyk plays on ball defense with his hands at his side. This allows Spain to pass the ball right over him for an open layup. He did not show a willingness to play defense and was burned as the ball was passed right over him. If he had his hands up, he could have gotten a hand on the ball to deflect the pass.

Finally, watch the poor closeout by Olynyk. He leaves his feet on the pump fake, which allows the Spanish player to take a dribble past him. Now that Olynyk is out of position, a help defender must come to cut the ball off, which results in the wing player being open.

Olynyk really showed some struggles on defense. He needs to iron out these wrinkles and show some desire to play fundamentally sound defense to help his team. If he does not show this, he may be seeing a lot more time on the bench than on the court.


Olynyk only averaged 12 minutes per game last season and did not make that much of an impact. With this experience and the skill set he has shown in the FIBA World Championships, he has the opportunity to make a bigger impact for the Bulldogs this year.

I really think this experience of playing in the FIBA WCs is going to be great for Harris, Scare and Olynyk. They are playing against professionals and facing some tough competition. This can only help them as they go back to college basketball and play in the West Coast Conference. Even though the 3 players did not put up gaudy numbers, they played against superior competition, which will help them improve their game.

With Sacre, Harris and Olynyk, Gonzaga may have the best frontline in all of college basketball and this competition will be quite the experience for the three of them.


Written by Joshua Riddell

September 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this write-up! I know Few has mentioned in post-game interviews that he wants Olynyk to shoot more threes. Apparently Olynyk is a better three shooter in practice than in games and Few knows if Olynyk can start making those threes in games it will stretch out opposing defenses significantly.

    I hope Few emphasizes the need to keep arms raised on defense. A year or two ago, Memphis absolutely tore us apart because we didn’t keep our arms up on defense to clog the passing lanes. Ever since that game, I’ve kept up my arms on defense, even though I only play pickup games against friends. If I can handle it in street ball, the Zags ought to be able to handle it.


    September 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    • Defense is mainly focus and desire. It’s not hard to keep your hands up but it takes dedication and will power. I am sure if Few drives it into him enough times that he will learn his lesson.


      September 4, 2010 at 11:15 pm

  2. […] FIBA update: Kelly Olynyk | The Mikan Drill […]

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