Tommy Lloyd was a young assistant at Gonzaga when head coach Mark Few asked him to step up his game.
Lloyd had played two years professionally in Germany and Australia in the late 1990s and Few wanted him to use his connections to broaden GU’s recruiting horizons. Lloyd had numerous contacts with former coaches and teammates overseas. He enjoyed traveling.
“It all kind of came together,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd’s efforts have helped bring several prominent imports to the program, including senior Elias Harris (Germany), sophomore Kevin Pangos (Canada) and freshman Przemek Karnowski (Poland) on the current roster.
“We’ve got a niche (recruiting internationally),” Few said. “Tommy has done a nice job with that.”
Lloyd remains close to Ronny Turiaf, who sparked interest from Gonzaga while playing for the French national team with future NBA players Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Mickaël Piétrus. In one game, Turiaf broke a backboard.
Turiaf was a raw talent when he arrived in Spokane. He was charismatic and had an obvious passion for the game, but there was something else about Turiaf that impressed Lloyd.
“A lot of people in his camp in Europe were telling him not to come to Gonzaga because they didn’t think he’d get playing time here,” Lloyd said. “He wasn’t worried about instant playing time. He was worried about getting good competition and needing time to develop. He literally had a long-range plan.”
Austin Daye’s early exit for the NBA Draft created an opening for Harris. The 6-8 forward responded by averaging 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds as a freshman.
Pangos’ performance at a camp prompted a Canadian junior national team coach, who was a friend of Lloyd’s, to make a phone call.
“He told me, ‘I just saw a kid that has Gonzaga written all over him,’ ” Lloyd said. “From Day 1, I knew it was a perfect fit for both sides.”
Pangos led Gonzaga in scoring last season and earned All-WCC honors. Before Pangos committed, Lloyd was in the stands when Pangos and Canada faced Poland at the U-17 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.
“I just saw this massive kid with great hands and he threw in a couple of jump hooks,” Lloyd said of his first impressions of Karnowski.
The 7-foot-1 center made an impression on Pangos, too. They later teamed up at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland.
“We got to know each other and built a relationship that way,” Pangos said. “I just gave him my opinion of what it’s like here, how much I loved it and tried to give him an idea about U.S. schools, not just Gonzaga, and he ended up liking it.”
Karnowski visited Gonzaga and Cal, but he turned down overtures from Ohio State, Marquette, Kansas and Duke.
“I had exams to take (in Poland) and I really liked Gonzaga,” Karnowski said. “I know Kevin Pangos for two years; that was also a plus. Gonzaga was in contact with me for two years.”
Gonzaga faces competition on two fronts when recruiting internationally – other U.S. schools, and pro teams in the prospect’s homeland. The latter remains a possibility, even after a player joins GU’s program. Former Zag Mathis Mönninghoff, who saw limited time in his two seasons, is playing professionally in Germany.
Harris has been considered an NBA prospect since his arrival at Gonzaga. He also could have returned to Europe and made big money – perhaps $300,000 or more annually.
“I started something here and I’m not a guy that starts something and leaves and starts something else, just like Momma tells me,” Harris said. “Now I’m close, I’m going to graduate on time and it’s going to be a win-win situation if I can fulfill my dream and play basketball at a high level and make a good amount of money.”
Lloyd said Gonzaga is an attractive option.
“They’re comfortable here,” he said. “And we have a track record with them and we can point to past successes.”