If you really want to stump Gonzaga basketball players, don’t bother trying an intricate matchup zone or a crafty offensive set.
Ask them what they would be doing if they weren’t suiting up for the second-ranked Zags.
The question caused hesitation, contemplation and thumb and index finger pressed to chin for several players, except for Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall.
“I’d be in Europe playing volleyball,” said Tillie, whose family athletic pedigree is impressive. Father Laurent was a star volleyball player and Olympian who now coaches France’s national team. Mother Caroline was captain of the Netherlands national team.
Brother Kevin is a terrific outside hitter playing for his father. Brother Kim plays professional basketball overseas.
It’s easy to picture the agile, 6-foot-10 Tillie dominating at the net in volleyball. Prior to Gonzaga games, he’s been known to set basketballs through the hoop from a seat on the bench.
“I’d probably be playing volleyball in Europe, too,” cracked a straight-faced Crandall, drawing an unappreciative glare from Tillie.
Tillie left volleyball behind at age 13 to concentrate on basketball. Crandall left behind an interest in graphic design when he realized the time commitment required to play college basketball.
Would you still be in school? “No, I would have got my first degree and been done,” said Crandall, a grad transfer from the University of North Dakota. “No way I’d be working toward my master’s without basketball.
“Maybe I’d be graduate coaching somewhere. I want to be a coach one day. I probably would have got into graphic design a little more, that was my original plan.”
A few Zags suggested the gridiron would have become their athletic outlet.
“I guess I’d still be at Rice, maybe in my fifth year there,” said Jeremy Jones, who played basketball and redshirted on the Owls’ football team as a freshman before transferring to Gonzaga. “If I wasn’t playing basketball, I’d still be playing football and getting my degree.”
Asked about post-college plans, Jones said, “Doing my own thing, not working for anyone. Maybe what my dad did, leadership development training, something in that field.”
Josh Perkins offered several backup plans, but education has always been tops on the list.
“I definitely take academics super serious so I can set myself up for the future,” the two-time Academic All-WCC selection said.
So, what was plan B?
“Probably a famous R&B, hip-hop singer or playing football,” Perkins said. “I had shoulder surgery so that kind of shoots down my quarterback dreams. I played football until my freshman year of high school. School-wise, I’d probably be some type of engineer. I didn’t know how much of a (time-consuming) schedule basketball was so I dialed it back and went to sports management.”
Clarke suggested football as a possible alternate route.
“I feel like I’d be a pretty good tight end or receiver,” he said. “I played from third through sixth grade, but it was really hard practice and it was hard to balance basketball and football. I had to drop it and focus on basketball.”
Hmm, Perkins arcing passes to a bouncy Clarke high-pointing the ball? Seems to be a precedence for that.
Zach Norvell Jr. said he would in college working toward a degree.
“I think I’d be in college, probably (playing) baseball, doing something in the sports field,” Norvell said. “I’m a sports management major and I want to be an agent. My parents are really big on school and college, regardless if I was playing basketball.”
Rui Hachimura isn’t the biggest fan of studying but he’d probably still be college student.
“I don’t think I’d play baseball,” said Hachimura, who had a pretty good fastball as a youngster. “I really wanted to come to the U.S. or nothing. I like the (college) life, the lifestyle.”
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