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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s foreign players enjoy visits from family during holidays

Gonzaga center Jacob Larsen slaps the ball away from Pacific forward Anthony Townes, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

It seems like the toughest time for Gonzaga’s foreign players is right around the holiday break, but for some their families visit them in Spokane, and a few even get the chance to head home for a couple of days.

Gonzaga is currently home to four Zags from foreign countries this season, all of whom rarely get a chance to travel overseas for the holidays.

Throughout the years, parents of these foreign players have been more likely to travel to the U.S. and follow their sons between cities to watch them play in a Gonzaga uniform. It usually gives parents the opportunity to visit for weeks at a time.

This year, a couple of Gonzaga’s foreign players had a few familiar faces sitting in the stands during the Bulldogs’ 81-48 rout of the Pacific Tigers on Thursday. Big men Killian Tillie, from France, and Jacob Larsen, of Denmark, were joined by their parents, who watched from their seats not far behind the Gonzaga bench.

“I don’t see them a lot so it’s cool to have them here,” Tillie said after the game.

Tillie’s parents arrived in Spokane last week after the sophomore forward returned with the Zags from their narrow loss at San Diego State on Dec. 21. They’ll travel with Tillie to California next week to watch the Zags play Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount before returning to France.

The Tillies celebrated Christmas in Spokane this week, but some of their holiday traditions were left behind in France. Usually, the Tillies enjoy a dish known as ‘foie gras’ which has been highly controversial amongst different states of the U.S. because of the way the dish is produced. Tillie said his parents weren’t sure about the laws in Washington and decided to stick to some other dishes instead, like salmon.

“They didn’t risk it,” Tillie said.

Larsen’s Christmas dinner wasn’t quite as complicated. The Larsens cooked up some favorable rice pudding for the feast, a holiday tradition in Denmark. It’s tradition to place an almond in the rice pudding for someone to find. Whoever finds the almond in their own dish gets a present.

Larsen’s parents arrived in Spokane a couple of weeks ago and are heading back to Denmark on Friday. Larsen said he’s hoping to see them again in a couple of months when the Zags travel to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference tournament.

It was a quick trip, but getting a little piece of home and living out some of his favorite holiday traditions this week was just what Larsen said he needed.

“Of course we all miss home every now and then,” Larsen said. “So them coming all the way over here, it helps.”

Gonzaga’s other two foreign players, sophomore forward Rui Hachimura, from Japan, and sophomore guard Joel Ayayi, from France, didn’t get a chance to see family during the holiday break, but will have the opportunity to head home during the summer.