Gonzaga's Drew Timme burst onto the college basketball scene last season with his polished post moves, ever-changing facial hair and post-bucket 'stache celebrations. The 6'10" forward showed his gregarious personality while emerging as one of the most creative interior scorers in the nation. He averaged 19.0 points — he made a mind-boggling 67.7 percent of his shots inside the 3-point arc — and 7.0 boards while earning second-team All-America honors. The Texas native enters this season as one of the favorites for national Player of the Year honors.
Athlon Sports went one-on-one with Timme, a leader on a Gonzaga team chasing the first national championship in program history.
College Basketball: Q&A with Gonzaga Forward Drew Timme
You could have gone to a lot of schools. You became a Gonzaga Bulldog because ... ?
Just for the family atmosphere, the coaching staff and the program. It's all high-level in every aspect. That's something that's important to me, especially the family aspect. I love how once you're a Zag, you're always welcomed back. The way we interact with past players is truly amazing.
Let's assess your first two seasons at Gonzaga. As a freshman, things really kicked in for you during the WCC season. Why?
It was definitely a lot of learning for me. Just playing with Joel (Ayayi), Corey (Kispert), Filip (Petrusev) and (Killian) Tillie. It took me a while to get adjusted, and those guys helped me get comfortable, and toward the end of the year you saw me hit my stride once I was able to start playing and not thinking as much.
What did you think of your sophomore year as you became an All-American and GU's leading scorer and drew a lot of attention?
It was a great year, something not a lot of teams have done. It definitely left a bitter taste in our mouths the way it ended [with a loss to Baylor in the title game]. We made a lot of growth as a program, obviously with how we're getting all these big-time [recruits]. It was a great experience, and hopefully we can experience winning the championship this year.
You're back for your third season at Gonzaga. How close were you to testing the NBA waters, even if it was just to get feedback? Or did you already have a good sense of what the feedback would be?
Honestly, I kind of knew what I needed to work on. I'm a realist. People I work out with and trust, including the coaches, we've all talked about the main things I needed to work on, so I already knew. I felt like I didn't need to do that [declare for the draft] because you only can do that twice; why waste it when I knew what feedback I was going to receive? I was close, but I love it here so much. I love being a student and playing here.
What was it like, save the last game, to play on a team that put up video-game numbers on offense, had 29 wins by double figures and played with a target on your backs all season?
It's hard to describe. Looking back on it, I've never played on a team like that ever, and I've played with lot of great players. We really meshed, we were just one. We loved others' success more than our own, and that's really hard to find. That team was truly one of a kind.
The national championship game didn't go your way or Gonzaga's way, so obviously there's disappointment in the outcome. Did you watch the video, burn it or is it something you've gone back and watched from an instructive sense to learn from it?
I haven't watched it yet. I don't think I will watch it. There's always that feeling and reliving that moment. As much as it hurts, it's really helped me during my workouts, trying to push through walls and barriers remembering that feeling. It's been a great learning experience and tool and something we're able to show our young guys that came in that it doesn't matter what you've done, who you are, this stuff is hard. If you don't bring your A-game, you can get beat on any given night. It's been more of a lesson than a sour feeling.
The pairing of you and Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class, in the frontcourt looks great on paper. What do you expect?
First, off the court he's a great dude. I love that dude. We talk a lot, we've been talking while he has been playing [in the FIBA U19 World Cup in July] in Latvia, so I know we mesh off the court. I know there'll be some chemistry when we step on the court. I watched what he was able to do with Team USA, and very few people are able to do what he does. It'll be fun to try new things and see how well we play together on the court.
Name a Zag who might not be on everyone's radar right now, but will be one to watch this season.
Everyone is doing really good, but I would say Anton [Watson, junior forward] again, like I did last year. People don't talk about him that much, but he's one of our best players. He does so much for this team that doesn't always show up on the stat sheet. He's a huge piece and deserves way more attention than he gets. He's really going to come into his own this year. He's more than ready for it.
We can't go through the entire roster, but tell us something that we don't know about Andrew Nembhard.
He's a really fun guy when you get to know him. He gives off the quiet vibe, but once you get him to open up a little bit, he's a funny guy and a great guy.
Iowa State transfer guard Rasir Bolton?
Great dude; he's a player for sure. I saw him work out, and I was amazed. I think he's going to have a huge role this season. Excited to play with him.
You mentioned Anton Watson. What's something we don't know about him?
He's probably one of the best FIFA players I know. I hate to admit it, but it's a fact.
The beard, the 'stache celebrations, the Drew Manchu, you had fun with all of it, your mom had fun with it. What's next? Do you have something new in the works?
All that stuff was me being me. That wasn't me deciding to do anything out of the norm. I've been doing stuff like that since high school. I'm going to continue to be me and have fun with the game. Who knows — maybe I'll add something new. I'm just me.
Your footwork and moves get as much attention as your facial hair. If you boil it down, where did all those pivots and fakes come from?
My dad [Matt, who is 6'8" and played at SMU]. He's been playing a long time, and we've been working out ever since I can remember. He was always pushing me to try new things. He never took it easy on me back in the day. I was trying to find ways to score on him, and it was a challenge, so I worked on angles and moves to score.
Former GU teammate Filip Petrusev gave you a great compliment. He said you play with joy. Has that always been the case?
It's always been the case. Just like with the facial hair, it's kind of who I am as a person. I love having fun. It's what makes me play the game with passion and energy and drive to get better every day. I'm so grateful for what this game has done for me.
What parts of your game have you been working on during the offseason?
At SandersFit [training center in Texas], I'm working on balance and mobility, being more agile. With Tyler [Relph, a Dallas-area trainer], I'm working on footwork and hand-eye coordination, but we're also working on new things, things you don't always work on, but it adds a lot to my game.
How has your outside shot progressed?
That's one of the things I needed to work on. I'm really trying to make it another option in my game. I still have work to do, but I love the progress.
You've played against some of the top bigs in the country, guys like Evan Mobley, Luka Garza, Jay Huff, Derek Culver, David McCormack and Matt Haarms last year, and Isaiah Stewart, Zeke Nnaji, Garrison Brooks and Yoeli Childs during your freshman season. Who were the best guys you've faced?
I don't know if I can compare them. They're all amazing players and bring something different than the others. That's why I chose to come to a school like Gonzaga to get a chance to play against the best of the best. I look forward to the challenge with whoever is out there this season.
Gonzaga has reloaded after a 31–1 record last season. How similar will this year's team be to last year's? And how will it be different?
Time will tell. I can't predict things, but this is a different group for sure. Obviously we're losing some leaders [Kispert, Ayayi and Jalen Suggs], but guys like Andrew, myself and Anton have taken on more of a leadership role. It's definitely going to be a challenge, but we'll figure it out. Whatever the learning curve happens to be, whether it's getting it together early in the year or later in the year, we're excited for the challenge.
— Interview for Athlon Sports' 2021 College Basketball Magazine.