Gonzaga is out to win its 12th consecutive West Coast Conference title and has a loaded roster highlighted by Robert Sacre, a fifth-year senior who'll be the latest in a long line of players in the program to be relied upon for leadership.
The 7-footer has experience going all the way back to the 2007-08 season when as a freshman he started in the NCAA tournament. The Zags now hope he can help carry them to the postseason again, and coach Mark Few holds the veteran big man in very high regard.
"There's probably no bigger, stronger, tougher center in all of college basketball," Few told 710 ESPN Seattle. "He's just got the biggest heart in the whole world and is just an amazing teammate. He probably could have came out been and been drafted in the late first or early second in the last draft."
Few continued with his praise in announcing today that Gonzaga has scheduled the BC Basketball Classic in Vancouver, Canada on Nov. 19 against Hawaii in order to give Sacre an opportunity to play in front of a hometown crowd.
"It will be exciting to get Rob back home to play," Few said in a statement. "He's one of the all-time great Zags."
Sacre last season averaged 12.5 points and a team-leading 6.3 rebounds, with the 260-pounder serving as a force in the middle with tattoos that cover his arms featured prominently. He's also a gentle giant in many ways and one of the bright personalities in college basketball.
From North Pole Hoops:
"Sometimes if we are going through a hard stretch I'll try and cheer people up -- like wear a teammate's shorts to practice, and they'll be too small for me, but I'll wear them anyway. Just to crack guys up and keep things loose. Then when everything's alright, you go right back to staying on each other and working hard."
Another example of Sacre's humour is the greeting left on his voicemail, imploring you to "stay thirsty my friends", after the famous Dos Equis beer commercial.
Sacre, who suffered through a medical redshirt season in 2009 the last time Gonzaga went to the Sweet 16, has to hunger for big-time NCAA tournament success of his own. It couldn't have been easiest offseason to go through following news that his father, Greg LaFleur, had been fired as Southern's athletic director after an arrest.
And it's Sacre who will be asked to lead them.