Gonzaga took another step toward solidifying its future frontcourt with the addition of 6-foot-10 Russian native Pavel Zakharov.
The 230-pound Zakharov is playing this season at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, the same school the produced Zags’ freshman forward Filip Petrusev. Zakharov said he has signed a letter-on-intent.
Zakharov is rated No. 37 overall and No. 9 among centers. He joins Gonzaga Prep forward Anton Watson, Kittitas High guard Brock Ravet, Texas prep forward Drew Timme and Lithuanian small forward Martynas Arlauskas in Gonzaga’s 2019 class.
GU’s class includes four forwards ranked in the top 50, according to 247sports.com. Gonzaga is No. 4 in the team rankings.
Zakharov, who is 17, said he reclassified to 2019 “because I want play on the college level with players who are better than me, stronger and faster. I want to learn from them.”
Zakharov has good size and strength to operate in the lane, but he’s also capable of making perimeter shots. He’s a strong passer and defender.
“I like playing defense more than offense with my rebound ability, blocking shots,” Zakharov said. “I play offense everywhere, the 3-point line and inside.”
Gonzaga is bracing for the possibility of underclassmen leaving for the NBA after this season. Rui Hachimura is considered a possible lottery pick. Killian Tillie is out for about six more weeks following ankle surgery but he’s considered a solid pro prospect. Forward Brandon Clarke, a transfer from San Jose State, figures to merit NBA attention with his athleticism.
Zakharov follows in a long line of versatile, international bigs, including current Zags’ Hachimura (Japan), Tillie (France) and Petrusev (Serbia). Former Zags Kelly Olynyk (Canada) and Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania) are currently in the NBA.
“They have success (with) international players,” Zakharov said. “This is why I picked Gonzaga.”
He helped Russia finish fourth in the 2018 FIBA European Championships. He averaged 7.3 points and 5 rebounds in the tournament. Petrusev and Serbia won the title and GU redshirt freshman Joel Ayayi helped France take third place.
Zakharov said GU assistant Tommy Lloyd began recruiting him after the European championships.
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