It’s Robert Sacre’s night.
He’s the senior, the NBA prospect, and the North Vancouver native who has been a central figure on Gonzaga University’s basketball team for the past five years.
But in order for Sacre to be the star in front of his fellow British Columbians at Rogers Arena on Saturday, he needs the co-operation of a Canadian teammate. Because if Kevin Pangos keeps shooting the ball as he has through his first two college games, then people will leave the game against the University of Hawaii Warriors talking about that other Canuck.
“I’m just trying to get a win,” said Sacre, 22. “If he wants to [steal the show]and we get a win, that’s fine.”
Sacre is a 7-foot, 260-pound manchild who patrols the paint for the Bulldogs and is capping an excellent career this season. He has already played for Canada’s senior men’s national team, but he skipped last summer because he wanted to “focus on myself,” and a pregnant girlfriend who gave birth to his son in early October.
He vowed to play for Canada again in the future, and he will likely be selected in the 2012 NBA draft – should the league resolve its labour interruption and continue holding drafts – especially if he improves his rebounding. Saturday, he takes a final bow in front of his own people, a gesture the Gonzaga coaching staff tries to extend to important players during their senior years.
“He means the world to me, and he means the world to our program,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We took the chance to play this one just to try and get Rob up here.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Sacre said. “I’m fortunate enough to play for a great program that would do this for their player.”
If Gonzaga keeps scheduling these homecoming games, and if Pangos keeps scoring as he has, than expect the Bulldogs to roll into Toronto’s Air Canada Centre in late-2014.
The freshman from Newmarket, Ont., has been nothing short of phenomenal in two games this month. In his second college game – and his first start – Pangos, 18, tied a school record with nine three-point shots in a victory over Washington State University.
The combo guard is averaging 22 points per game, making 62.5 per cent of this three-point attempts, and getting compared to Victoria’s Steve Nash, the two-time NBA most valuable player.
Sacre, whose personality is as big as his body, has already nicknamed Pangos “the Machine,” and the latter has been ribbed by teammates for generating so much attention this early in his collegiate career. Usually, freshmen take a back seat and defer to upper classmen.
“It’s funny,” Pangos said of his new handle. “And everyone has bought into it now. Maybe it will stick, maybe it won’t.”
Pangos, who has starred for Canada’s junior national team, can’t remember having a game where he was so hot, but he didn’t know how many triples he had made against Washington State until after it was over. Like Sacre, he did not play for the senior national team this summer, but he is part of a talented generation of Canadian teenagers who will be charged with improving the country’s lot in international basketball in the years to come.
“I definitely want to be part of that,” Pangos said. “We have the guys, we have the exposure. There’s really no excuses ... we have the potential, in the future, to be tops in the world.”