April 28, 2009 in Sports

Vilarino re-commits, selects Zags

Texas prep had been Kentucky-bound
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Kentucky’s loss was Gonzaga’s gain.

G.J. Vilarino, who committed to Kentucky two years ago but re-opened his recruitment after the Wildcats changed men’s basketball coaches, has verbally committed to Gonzaga.

Vilarino, a standout 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard at McKinney (Texas) High, committed Monday after a weekend visit.

“I chose Gonzaga because I thought it would be the best situation for me,” Vilarino said. “I liked Spokane, the school, the campus, everything. I thought it would be a good fit.”

Vilarino was born in Spokane in 1991, but only lived in the region for about a year before the family relocated to Seattle and eventually to McKinney, which is roughly 20 minutes north of Dallas. Vilarino’s father, Gerry, was stationed at Fairchild Air Force base from 1981-85, then earned a degree in economics from Eastern Washington University.

Vilarino has two uncles and several cousins who still live in the area.

“They’re really excited about it,” said Vilarino, who visited his Spokane relatives in 1998 when he was 7. “They all wanted me to go to Gonzaga when I got the opportunity.”

They weren’t the only ones, Gerry Vilarino said.

“My wife is a crazy Gonzaga fan, and always has been growing up in that area,” he said. “I always used to kid her: ‘How crazy would it be if G.J. ended up playing for Gonzaga?’ ”

Vilarino is the sixth commitment in the Bulldogs’ large 2009 class, joining Manny Arop, Sam Dower, Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris and Bol Kong.

Harris, a 6-7 forward from Speyer, Germany, still has to satisfy academic requirements. Kong, a native of Sudan who has lived two-thirds of his life in Canada, is attempting to resolve Visa issues.

Should all six end up at Gonzaga and Austin Daye, a sophomore who has declared for the NBA draft but didn’t sign with an agent, opts to return, the Zags would be one over the scholarship limit with their existing roster.

Vilarino committed as a sophomore to then-Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, who was replaced by John Calipari about a month ago. Vilarino’s father visited with Calipari before the family decided to re-open his recruitment.

“He handled it as well as a kid could ever handle it. When it was apparent it wasn’t going to happen at Kentucky, I asked him if he was OK and he said, ‘I’m fine,’ ” said Wes Watson, Vilarino’s coach at McKinney High. “He never gets too high or too low over that stuff and he always felt like he’d find somewhere that was a good fit.

“I don’t think he could have found a better situation. He has some family up there and they play a style of basketball that he likes.”

Vilarino had narrowed his choices to GU, Virginia Commonwealth, Cincinnati and possibly Oregon.

Vilarino averaged nearly 20 points and just over four assists as a senior on a 23-11 team that lost in the second round of the playoffs, Watson said. Vilarino was a four-year starter and McKinney broke an eight-year playoff drought in Vilarino’s freshman season.

“He’s the most talented kid I’ve seen with the ball in his hands,” Watson said. “He has a rare combination of skill and athleticism. You tend to get kids that have one or the other. He’s extremely fast with the ball in his hands. He can finish, he can elevate and shoot the mid-range and he’s a pretty good 3-point shooter.”


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