One of the big questions going into this season is, who's going to play in the post? There are a lot of bigs for Dave Rose to decide between. Nate Austin is the obvious choice to start and have an impact. Luke Worthington is likely to also get some playing time because of his game experience and his size. But outside of those two, the other big man minutes will be up for grabs. Corbin Kaufusi will be one of those guys fighting for a spot.
Kaufusi recently returned from his mission expecting to play football, but that quickly changed. He had grown while on his mission and seemed like he'd be a little bit too tall to be playing football. A 6-foot-10' football player is very rare, basically unheard of. So Corbin decided to just focus on basketball instead. He didn't feel like he had the football body anymore.
At first glance, the obvious comparison would be to his brother, Bronson, a football star who also suited up for the Cougars on the hardwood two years ago. But after listening to what others have said about him, it seems like that's not really the case.
Bronson was basically a football player playing basketball. In a lot of ways, he looked like that on the court. Many Cougar fans probably still remember when he barreled over Kelly Olynyk when Gonzaga visited the Marriot Center on February 28, 2013. That's the type of player he was most of the time. He bullied guys down in the paint and didn't show the necessary finesse to making a big impact outside of pushing guys around and getting boards.
According to his teammates and coaches, it sounds like Corbin Kaufusi is a different type of player.
"I'm really excited to play with Corbin," Tyler Haws said. "He's a great athlete, runs the floor really well, jumps out of the gym and just competes. He brings that competitive Kaufusi nature."
When comparing Corbin and Bronson's games, Haws added: "They both have motors and they never stop. They're going to compete on every single possession. He just competes and that's really good for all of our guys to have."
"He's very athletic, there's been a couple times he got some put back dunks, flying in for a dunk, getting a rebound and dunking it. He dunks everything. It's awesome. I wish I had the legs to do that," Nate Austin said. "For as big and physical as he is you wouldn't expect him to be as athletic. He's a really, really athletic guy. His vertical is around 40 inches. It's ridiculous how athletic and how big and strong he is."
It sounds like his athleticism is going to be his strongest asset. Like his brother, he's big and strong and has a good motor, but he appears to play more above the rim than Bronson did. He's a guy who likes to use his size, strength and athleticism to do damage at and above the rim.
Coach Dave Rose had a glowing and surprising comparison to the type of player Kaufusi could become: Hall of Fame NBA Center Hakeem Olajuwon.
"I hate to say who he really reminds me of because it sounds just so out there when you're talking about about one of the 50 best players in the NBA, but he reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon when I was playing in college," Rose said. "Just the fact that he's so young and he's so raw and he's so active and has not got a lot of basketball experience behind him, but at times really can dominate certain parts of a pickup game or a short scrimmage. He's got great timing, he can block shots out of his area and get rebounds out of his area, he can really run."
We all know that "The Dream" is one of the greatest centers to have ever played the game of basketball, so any comparison to him is quite the compliment. Granted, the comparison has more to do with raw talent and natural athletic ability than overall skill and impact at this point. I don't think Rose expects (nor should he expect) Kaufusi to play like Olajuwon this season. Dave Rose did play with Olajuwon at the University of Houston so he does have a close up view of both players at the same age. I would say that gives him some credibility on the topic.
The main takeaway that comes from all of this is that Kaufusi is extremely athletic. He has the type of physical ability that will allow him to make an impact on games. This season, his immediate impact will likely be felt on the defensive end of the court and around the basket. He has the length, the athleticism and the skill to hold down the paint and alter shots of any guards or smaller forwards trying to score around the rim.
It still remains to be seen just how much game experience Kaufusi will get with Rose. But early indications are that he'll at least get the chance to anchor the defense and score around the hoop. We probably won't see a lot from him this season, but we should get flashes of what to expect in the seasons to come.