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Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. says he’s staying in NBA draft

UPDATED: Thu., May 9, 2019

Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. fires a pass during the Bulldogs’ loss to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight on March 30. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. fires a pass during the Bulldogs’ loss to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight on March 30. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

It appears Zach Norvell Jr. has played his last game in a Gonzaga uniform.

The sophomore wing told reporters in Atlanta after Thursday’s workout for the Hawks that he plans on staying in the NBA draft.

“No, I’m coming out,” replied Norvell, when asked by Hawks’ Website writer Kevin Chouinard if he was undecided about turning pro or returning to Gonzaga.

Norvell’s decision isn’t considered a surprise. There have been growing indications for several weeks that Norvell would remain in the draft. Players who declared for the draft have until May 29 if they choose to return to school.

“Just being prepared, you know what I mean? I feel like I’m a confident guy,” Norvell told Chouinard. “It has always been my dream being able to show that I could play on a high-level team that we had last year and the year before that – and still being able to still average some pretty good numbers while also being the third option.

“I feel like it helped me out a lot being a guy that can play in a system, play in a lot of different roles, and just do what the coaches asked me to do, and being prepared and mature about the situation as well.”

Norvell’s departure almost certainly leaves Gonzaga without its top four scorers from last season. Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke are expected to be first-round draft picks and senior point guard Josh Perkins completed his eligibility.

Gonzaga reinforced the guard position, which also loses senior Geno Crandall, with the addition of 6-foot-4 guard Admon Gilder, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M. Gilder is versatile player who contributes at both ends of the court.

Rising junior wing Corey Kispert will likely be Gonzaga’s only returning starter on a roster with at least seven first-year Zags, six incoming freshmen, including guard Brock Ravet and Gilder.

Gonzaga returns rising sophomore guards Joel Ayayi and Greg Foster Jr. Both played limited minutes last season.

Forward Killian Tillie, who started as a sophomore but not during an injury-plagued junior season, hasn’t announced if he plans on staying in the draft. Forward Filip Petrusev submitted his name for the draft, but he told the coaching staff that he anticipates being back for his sophomore season.

Norvell, often referred to by his life-long nickname “Snacks” by teammates and coaches, was Gonzaga’s third-leading scorer at 14.9 points and led the West Coast Conference with 97 3-pointers. He averaged 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

The Chicago native averaged 12.7 points and 3.9 rebounds as a redshirt freshman. He hit numerous clutch shots along the way, including timely 3-pointers in NCAA Tournament victories over UNC Greensboro and Ohio State.

Norvell is a streaky shooter capable of 20-point halves when his shot is falling. He improved his defense, particularly late in the 2019 season, but struggled in the final five games, making 15 of 55 field-goal attempts (27.3%).

Norvell is listed as a second-round pick in some NBA mock drafts. He didn’t make ESPN’s top 100 draft rankings.

The Zags are among three finalists for South Dakota State transfer David Jenkins Jr. Gilder and Jenkins visited GU last weekend. Jenkins, who averaged 19.7 points as a sophomore, is expected to visit UNLV this weekend and previously took a trip to Oregon. T.J. Otzelberger left South Dakota State to take the UNLV coaching job.

Gonzaga isn’t involved with Duke decommit Rejean “Boogie” Ellis, who had the Zags among his final eight but not his final five.

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