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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke mum about future following NCAA Tournament exit

Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Jarrett Culver (23) lays in the ball against Gonzaga during the first half of an NCAA Elite Eight basketball game on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Big decisions loom for Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke now that the 2018-19 season is over, but the junior forwards were still officially Gonzaga basketball players when they left the Bulldogs’ locker room Saturday after a 75-69 loss to Texas Tech.

Gonzaga’s frontcourt boasted not one, but two players who are widely projected to go in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft – and who many think will forfeit their final year of eligibility because of the seven-figure paychecks that could be coming their way soon.

But neither Hachimura nor Clarke had come to that conclusion as of Saturday night, both declining to make decisions about their future in the raw moments after GU’s Elite Eight loss.

“Nothing official yet, but I’m going to figure it out somewhat soon,” Clarke said.

The tall, bouncy San Jose State transfer evolved into an All-American candidate at Gonzaga this season, breaking both Gonzaga and West Coast Conference records for single-season blocks, finishing with 117.

In the coming weeks – or days – Clarke will visit the NBA conversation with his family, friends and coaches. A recent Yahoo! Sports mock draft projects the junior to be selected seventh by the Atlanta Hawks. He finished the year averaging 16.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.

“It’s both: coaching staff, family. Myself, too,” Clarke said. “Obviously it’s going to really come down to what I want to do, but either option I’ll take will be a great option.”

The same Yahoo! Sports mock draft expects Hachimura to fall 14 spots below his GU teammate, but still in the first round, to the Utah Jazz. The junior from Toyama, Japan, will use the same timeline and decision-making process to determine his own future.

“I can’t think about it right now,” Hachimura said.

A few other Gonzaga players may be evaluating their own futures once they return to Spokane. Underclassmen are permitted to enter the NBA Draft without hiring an agent, and are eligible to return to school as long as they withdraw their name before June 1.

Junior forward Killian Tillie and sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. are among the Bulldogs who could submit their names, if only to go through the pre-draft process and gain feedback from NBA scouts who’ll tell them where they need to improve before making the jump to professional basketball.

“I’m going to talk it over with my family,” Norvell said. “Not sure yet.”

Tillie had a response along the same lines: “It’s way too early right now.”

Norvell averaged more than 15 points, four rebounds and three assists for the Bulldogs, starting in every game but Senior Day. Tillie’s season was shortened by injuries, and the 6-10 forward from France played in only 14 games, averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds.