SPOKANE, Wash. — Julian Strawther woke up to the sound of his phone ringing at 7:30 on Wednesday morning. It was Gonzaga's staff calling, imploring him for the answer to a question he had been mulling for two months.
"It was one of the more difficult decisions. It’s right up there with--," as Julian stopped himself to reflect. "Not even nowhere near as easy as it was to pick a school. It was way more difficult than picking Gonzaga. I mean, I didn't even know my final decision till about 7:30 AM this morning. I used as much time as I could, but this is the decision that made me most happy and made the most sense."
A few hours later, Strawther announced that he was returning to Gonzaga for his junior campaign. For two months he lived in limbo, and it understandably wore on him.
"I got the question a million times about how I'm feeling, and I just had to tell them the same thing, I don't know, I genuinely don't know," said Strawther. "Then leading up to last night, people still asking me. Had to tell them before I went to bed, I don't know what's going happen tomorrow. To finally have that set in stone that I'm going to be in Spokane in two weeks and back on the court and getting ready for this season, I can finally drop my shoulders."
Strawther says the staff was thrilled when he told them he was sticking around. So thrilled, that he got a call that he rarely gets.
"Got the annual, one time a year call from Coach Few," said Strawther. "Actually, this is my second call from him in like two weeks. That's probably our fourth or fifth phone call since I started getting recruited by Gonzaga. Seeing his name pop up on my phone always means something important is happening. He’s really happy and really excited to just get to work and make something happen."
Strawther figures to be one of the leaders for Gonzaga for the 2022-23 season, both statistically and emotionally. In 2021-22 he averaged 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in his first season starting. He's in line to be one of, if not the main threat from three for the Zags, as he shot 36.5% from beyond the arc last year. He also is an incredibly vocal player and the next natural leader on this squad.
"It's pretty wild," said Strawther of knowing that he will be one of, if not the, key leaders on this team next year. "I feel like these past two years have gone by really fast. To say that I'm a junior and could be one of the more experienced guys in the GU’s system this upcoming year, I mean, it's pretty crazy. I'm excited. This is all you can ask for being on one of the best teams in the country, and to have that role, I mean, that’s all you can ask."
Strawther had a lot of NBA Draft buzz early in the season but that cooled as the year progressed. He was not on any of the seven NBA mock drafts KREM looked at, including The Athletic, ESPN, Bleacher Report, or Sports Illustrated.
He also had his worst stretch of the season during the worst possible time: The NCAA Tournament. He went 1 of 14 from three and in his highest scoring game only shot 33% from the field.
"It for sure left the bad taste in my mouth, especially not only how we finished h as a team, but how I did individually left a bad taste in my mouth. To be able to come back and do it all over again, and hopefully, finally, win a national championship and leave a good taste in people's mouth this time around," said Strawther, acknowledging that the performance factored into his decision.
Strawther just stated some pretty lofty goals for next year's squad, but he's pretty high on what this team could become.
"I feel like this is going to be a really exciting, really fast team. I mean, you look at the makeup of just of what we have right now, just the guards and even the bigs being really athletic and fast and be able to run up and down the court. I feel like defensively we will be a lot more able to guard on the perimeter. A lot better than we did last season and really just play even faster than we have in previous years, which is really saying something. This year is going to be fun and fast paced, and I hope everybody can keep up because we going to be off and running," said Strawther.
Fellow Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton announced on Tuesday that he too would return to GU for his final year of eligibility. The Zags are now waiting on Drew Timme to announce his fate.
The deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft is Wednesday night at 8:59 PM PT.