SPOKANE - Robert Sacre is 7 feet tall, so the man is hard to miss.
Of course, even if you don’t spot Sacre right away, you can probably hear him if you wander into the same area code.
“What you see is what you get: A really big personality,” said Steven Gray, Sacre’s teammate on the Gonzaga men’s basketball team.
“I think I get that from my grandpa,” Sacre said with one of his frequent, wide smiles. “He’s a rooster, I guess, is the best way I can describe him.
“He’s a proud, big-chested man that is just ready to say whatever he has to say, and he isn’t afraid to say it.”
Gray and Gonzaga coach Mark Few certainly aren’t afraid to say that they admire Sacre (pronounced Sack-RAY) for all the hard work the junior center has done to develop into one of the best big men on the West Coast.
“He came in very raw ... (but) he’s always been a freak athlete with size,” Gray said.
“He’s a plow horse that you can just count on,” Few said. “As loyal a guy as you’ll ever find.
“I mean, he’s just going to work, and he’s going to do it with a great attitude and a contagious enthusiasm.”
Heading into Thursday night’s key home game with Saint Mary’s (8 p.m., ESPN2), Sacre is averaging 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots.
All three marks, along with his shooting percentages of 52.9 from the floor and 83.2 from the free-throw line, are career bests.
“You know what you’re going to get from Rob, night in and night out, day in and day out, every practice,“ Few said. “That’s a great quality to have.”
Sacre says the best is yet to come – “I know there’s so much more I can unravel behind the curtains” – but he has been a consistent bright spot in an unusually trying season for the Bulldogs.
Last week, Gonzaga lost two straight West Coast Conference games for the first time in 11 years. The Bulldogs (13-7, 3-2 WCC) are tied for third with Santa Clara, and first-place Saint Mary’s (17-3, 5-0) is making a strong bid to end Gonzaga’s 10-year string of WCC regular-season titles.
“We need to play better defense in tighter games,” Sacre said. “And you know what? I’m not worried about it.”
Sacre, a reserve on the Canadian national basketball team last summer at the World Championships in Turkey, was born and raised in Louisiana.
He moved to North Vancouver, B.C., after his parents split up when he was in grade school.
Sacre’s mother, former LSU basketball player Leslie Sacre, grew up in the Vancouver area. Sacre’s father, former NFL and LSU football player Greg LaFleur, is the athletic director at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.
Sacre plans to make his annual summer trip to Louisiana after graduating in May with a sport management degree (he redshirted in 2008-09 with a fractured foot). First, however, he has every intention of helping Gonzaga advance to the NCAA tournament for the 12th straight year.
“I’m not upset with anything that’s happened this year,” Sacre said.
“Obviously, there’s been some tough losses. Obviously, you can’t be happy.
“But you know what? I’m just happy to be with a great group of guys that will do anything for each other.”
Gray, a former Chimacum and Bainbridge High School star, leads the Bulldogs with 15.2 points and 4.4 assists per game. ... Four Gaels are averaging 10 or more points, led by senior point guard Mickey McConnell (14.6). ... San Diego transfer Rob Jones, a junior forward, averages 14.0 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds.