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Grip on Sports: The weekend shows once again Gonzaga is an attractive destination for Europe’s best young big men

The Bulldog logo on the floor of the remodeled Gonzaga men’s basketball locker room. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Bulldog logo on the floor of the remodeled Gonzaga men’s basketball locker room. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There have been more memorable weekends in sports history – that one back in April, 1986 comes to mind – but a couple of interesting things happened the past couple days. And it’s our job to comment on them. Read on.

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• The Gonzaga front line is going to be pretty darn good next season. What with Killian Tillie, Jacob Larsen and Rui Hachimura returning along with the addition of redshirt Brandon Clarke, the Zags have enough big bodies to go up against anyone.

But Mark Few loves bigs who play the old-fashioned way, with a twist. You know what I mean, bigs who like to bury their opponent under the hoop and take a good high-percentage shot from about a foot away. If they can do it in transition, all the better.

Larsen is the one returning big who showed he was capable of getting deep post position last season. Finishing, that was another story. 

Hachimura was comfortable doing it as well, though his skill set is such that it seems a waste to have him operating in deep every possession.

Which means there may be an opening for someone new. I give you freshman Filip Petrusev. The Serbian big, who played last season at Montverde Academy in Florida, showed this past week at the U18 European Championships he’s a load around the rim.

The 6-foot-11 Petrusev averaged 21 points playing against the best young posts Europe has to offer. He scored from just about anywhere inside of 15 feet but was most impressive establishing deep post position and exploding to the rim.

Sure, Petrusev is just a freshman. And, sure, the Zags are loaded up front. But don’t be surprised if he doesn’t force his way into the rotation.

• Speaking of the U18 European Championships, there were also a bunch of Joel Ayayi sightings. The razor-thin guard only popped up on the Zags’ radar last year when he popped off the bench to celebrate another play.

Though he never wore a red shirt to games, he was redshirting. And it looks as if the year maturing – he weighed about a buck-and-a-half when he walked on campus – helped.

Ayayi helped France finish third, scoring 15.7 points a game in the tournament.

• Don’t be fooled. 

Kyle Seager hit two solo home runs yesterday and some in the media may be tempted to write a Seager-is-back column.

The two bombs helped the M’s end their five-game losing streak and keep pace with Oakland in the wild-card race. But if the Mariners are going to turn their offensive woes around, they’ll need more than just the occasional home run from Seager.

They need him to drive the ball up the gaps more often. Consistent, good solid contact is a must, not just the run-into-a-fastball blast. In fact, it might be a detriment in the long run for Seager to do what he did yesterday. The flash of success could feed his long-ball ego for a few more days.

• I don’t know about you but when Pete Carroll tossed his headset Saturday and sent in a replacement for German Ifedi, I was encouraged.

Not encouraged Ifedi had committed even more than his usual dumb penalties, but encouraged that they cost him his spot. A solid, penalty-free Ifedi will help the Hawks’ offensive line. But if he’s going to continue to cost them with false starts and uncalled for holds, he needs to sit.

And if Carroll feels there are alternatives, then that’s great too. The line has been so thin in the past, Ifedi played despite his momentum-breaking penalties. It just may be this season that won’t be the case.

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WSU: Another day of practice in Lewiston, another day of playing “juggle the quarterbacks.” With three QBs vying for the starting spot, Mike Leach is giving two of them a chance to show what they have each practice. Theo Lawson has that and a story on what Robert Lewis’ return means for the Cougars. … Theo also posted video of post-practice interviews with Leach, Robert Valencia, Darrien Molton and Anthony Gordon. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the offense decided to take over on Washington’s third day of camp. … We hear about Oregon’s defense improving just about every year. … Oregon State’s newest assistant is happy he got a shot. … California is benefiting from the addition of two Michigan grad transfers. … Colorado has a senior who hopes to make the most of his last chance. … Utah is focusing on winning a Pac-12 title. … The best player at UCLA may just be tight end Caleb Wilson. … Sun Devil Stadium is almost all new but it isn’t finished quite yet. … Arizona knows who will start at quarterback. But backup? That’s still to be determined by coach Kevin Sumlin.

Gonzaga: Petrusev had a huge hand in Serbia’s win in the U18 European Championships, as did Ayayi in France’s finish. Jim Meehan has more in this story.

EWU: The Eagles hit the practice field for the first time and Ryan Collingwood was there. He has this story

Indians: Spokane took a three-run lead into the late innings, but Eugene scored in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th for a 4-3 win. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Boise also won in extra innings, defeating host Everett.

Mariners: The M’s salvaged the final game of the series with Toronto, winning 6-3. Nelson Cruz drove in four runs. … Ryan Divish left early for his trip to Texas, but he did have a mailbag. … Dee Gordon missed another game with his sore ankle. 

Seahawks: The Hawks have a running back with a pretty important second job. … Bob Condotta has a mailbag as well.

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• We’re back on the radio again today as Dennis Patchin’s vacation continues. I’ll join Rick Lukens from 3 to 6 p.m. today talking about the M’s, the Hawks and just about anything else we can think of. You can listen here if you have the desire. Until later … 


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