Gonzaga’s next wave of international players will likely set up the Zags for a while on the world market, says Zags’ international recruiter and assistant coach Tommy Lloyd.
“We’re pretty much set for the net couple of years if everything works out with the guys we signed, if they qualify academically and everything else,” Lloyd told heinnews.
“The next group would probably be for 2018.”
Lloyd and head coach Mark Few still have great international players sophomore Domantas Sabonis and seniors Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer.
They are in the process of joining past foreign-born stars such as Ronny Turiaf of France, German Elias Harris, JP Baptista of Brazil and Canadians Kelly Olynyk, Robert Sacre and Kevin Pangos.
But Lloyd has done quite well in his latest batch of players who will come to the United States to combine high level collegiate basketball and academics.
France’s Killian Tillie comes from a sports family which includes volleyball playing/coaching father, mother and brother – 2015 European champion Kevin – as well as brother Kim, who played basketball at the University of Utah and is now with the Spanish Euroleague club Laboral Kuxta.
The 1998-born Killian Tillie is an athletic all-arounder who was the MVP of the 2014 U16 European Championship. He has been battling with injuries since then – missing nearly the entire 2014-15 season before playing at the 2015 Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals for INSEP as well as appearing at the 2015 U18 European Championship – where he played just three games.
“We expect him to contribute right away, if his health is under control with some knee issues. He is one of those really interesting guys. He has incredible instincts,” Lloyd said of the 6-foot-10 Tillie, who turns 18 in March.
“It’s probably hard to pinpoint his strengths, but he doesn’t really have a weakness either. He has tremendous upside, and we think his potential is off the charts.”
Tillie is expected to play for the French national team at the 2016 U18 European Championship, with the top five finishers booking places in the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship.
Another player who could be playing for his country next summer is Japan forward Rui Hachimura at the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship.
Hachimura, who played at the 2015 Jordan Brand Classic, has been an enticing talent since the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship, being one of the few Japanese players who deserved to be on the court against a United States team that included Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Ivan Raab, Diamond Stone, Malik Newman and Terrance Ferguson.
“He’s really developed in the last year. His body has really changed. He’s a legit 6-foot-8 1/4 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and huge hands. He can control the ball easily and can shoot,” Lloyd said of Hachimura, who is considered Japan’s Golden Boy and the biggest hopeful for the future.
“There’s a little bit of a gamble, but mainly on the point of culturally and language-wise. It’s probably going go take him longer to accumulate. He might even have to go to a prep school for a year before he comes here, or if he comes here he probably have to red-shirt.”
Lloyd continued: “He’s a great kid, he has a great attitude. He was really eager to come to the US and what it takes. I have a soft spot in my heart for kids like that – he’s not taking the easy way out. For him it would be easy to sign a pro contract with a Japanese team. But he’s dead set on coming to the US and getting as good as he can get.
“ We’re excited that he signed with us. I think he’s a player with tremendous upside. Hopefully, he will be a really significant contributor in the future.”
The third international player getting ready to come to Gonzaga is another big player who might need some time to get used to collegiate basketball – the 18-year-old Danish center Jacob Larsen.
Larsen is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-10 and some 240 pounds. And Lloyd is really impressed with Larsen’s footwork.
“We think he has a incredible upside with all the intangibles you like in a big guy – great hands, very good feet, strong body. He’s also cerebral,” Lloyd said of Larsen, who turns 19 in May.
“Based on where he’s at when he comes over here, we’re willing to be patient with him and see how long it takes him to develop. But he’s a guy who we think in a couple of years will be a real force. We are very thankful to add him to our program for the future.”
While Tillie and Hachimura bring a great share of athleticism, Larsen is not a vertical player.
“But we love his size and length and tremendous feet. We’re looking at that more in a big guy than if he can touch the top of the backboard. It’s a sneaky trait for our big men. Robert Sacre had tremendous feet. He can really move his feet. Karnowski has good feet too,” Lloyd said of Larsen, who was the MVP of the 2013 U16 European Championship Division B.
“That’s important for how we play our post-orientated game. I really have no issues with Jacob’s athleticism.”
Listening to how Lloyd talks about the next group of future Zags, Gonzaga fans definitely can look forward to a continued group of internationals.