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Gonzaga’s presence strong at FIBA U19 World Cup

UPDATED: Thu., June 27, 2019

Gonzaga forward Filip Petrusev goes up inside against Pepperdine guard Andre Ball  in a Feb. 21 game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Filip Petrusev goes up inside against Pepperdine guard Andre Ball in a Feb. 21 game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

There are two pictures at the top of Filip Petrusev’s Twitter page.

One shows the 6-foot-11 sophomore forward clad in his No. 3 Gonzaga uniform. The other is of Petrusev and his Serbian teammates celebrating after winning the 2018 FIBA U18 European Championships.

Joel Ayayi has a similar Twitter setup. There’s a snap of the sophomore guard in his No. 11 Gonzaga uniform, inset with a wide-angle shot of Ayayi competing for his native France.

Gonzaga’s global approach to recruiting will be on full display at the FIBA U19 World Cup, which begins a nine-day run Saturday in Greece. Current Zags Petrusev and Ayayi, incoming freshmen Martynas Arlauskas (Lithuania) and Oumar Ballo (Mali) and future Zag Julian Strawther (Puerto Rico) are among the 192 players competing in the 16-team tournament.

Games begin Saturday at 3:15 a.m. PDT – Greece is 10 hours ahead of Spokane – with the opener featuring the 6-10, 250-pound Ballo leading Mali against Latvia in Group B.

There are seven more games Saturday, including France tangling with Puerto Rico, Serbia facing China, and Lithuania versus Senegal.

Games will be shown on FIBA’s YouTube channel. More tournament information can be found at fiba.basketball/world/u19/2019.

Minnesota native Jalen Suggs, a top recruit in the 2020 class who has Gonzaga among his finalists, is on the U.S. squad that is trying to return to the top of the awards podium after claiming the 2013 and 2015 titles. The 6-5 Suggs already has two gold medals representing the U.S. in international events.

The Americans open against New Zealand at 10 a.m. PDT Saturday. Incoming Gonzaga freshman and former Gonzaga Prep standout Anton Watson was among the U.S. team’s final cuts.

Petrusev and Ayayi made the All-Star Five, essentially the all-tournament team, at last year’s U18 European Championships. Petrusev scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the championship game. He averaged 21 points and 8.7 boards in the tournament.

The 6-5 Ayayi had 22 points in France’s third-place win over Russia. He averaged 15.7 points during the tournament. Incoming Zags freshman Pavel Zakharov was on Russia’s U18 squad last year – he scored eight points against France – but the 6-10 center isn’t on Russia’s roster for the U19 World Cup.

Strawther, a rising senior at Liberty High in Henderson, Nevada, is ranked No. 51 in the class of 2020 by 247sports.

GU players will attend Hoopfest

Gonzaga men’s and women’s basketball players will be available to meet fans Saturday at Gonzaga’s Hoopfest booth in downtown Spokane.

Katie Campbell and Jill Townsend will be available at the booth from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by Gillian Barfield, Jessie Loera and Jenn Wirth from 1-2 p.m., and Corey Kispert and Killian Tillie from 2-3 p.m.

Zags set dates for Kraziness, FanFest

Gonzaga will hold Numerica Kraziness in the Kennel for the men’s team on Oct. 5 and Numerica FanFest for the women’s team on Oct. 12.

The annual events are the public’s first chance to see the teams in action as they hold a scrimmage and several individual competitions.

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