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Former Gonzaga standout Jeremy Pargo back in the game in Israel

UPDATED: Tue., June 16, 2020

Basketball has taken Jeremy Pargo all over the globe.

The former Gonzaga standout’s latest adventure is in familiar surroundings in Israel, Pargo’s third stint playing professionally in the country. He’s also played in Russia, Italy, China, the NBA and the NBA’s G League.

This will be a short-term assignment for Pargo, who signed with Hapoel Jerusalem for a few regular-season games prior to the league’s 12-team tournament that concludes in late July. Pargo’s team faces Maccabi Rishon on Sunday.

Pargo has no idea how his body will respond after three-plus months without basketball due to COVID-19.

“Everyone was locked down,” he said. “I couldn’t get into any kind of gym. I started a Nike run club group, like 15 of us, and we had a goal of 62 miles in a month and a second month with 70 miles. The worst part is falling out of shape and getting it back. I’m getting there, but it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Pargo last suited up for G League Santa Cruz in March, shortly after a three-game January stint with the Golden State Warriors alongside former Zag Zach Norvell Jr.

That was cool for the two Chicago natives, who have a big-brother (34-year-old Pargo), little-brother (Norvell, 22) relationship. Pargo first met Norvell about 10 years ago.

“I know him, how he is. He’s reserved, a bit quiet. He doesn’t lack confidence at all,” Pargo said. “Zach is going to shoot the ball with a lot of confidence and he’s going to do his thing. He’s going to take some shots that may be questionable, he’s going to make some shots that may be questionable. He wants to learn and get better.”

There was sweet symmetry in Pargo’s most recent NBA appearances, his first in the league since the 2012-13 season, and the first NBA game he witnessed from the stands as a middle-schooler in Chicago.

“It was fun playing with a team like the Warriors, the guys they have around the team and the character they’ve built and to play for a guy like (coach) Steve Kerr,” Pargo said. “He’s an unbelievable guy.

“He had a foundation (when he played on Chicago’s NBA title teams in the 1990s), Kerr’s Kids, and they’d pick a school to attend a game. My class was actually selected and it was Michael Jordan’s first game against Kobe Bryant.”

Pargo recalls Bryant scoring about 30 points and finishing with a monster dunk, but the Bulls claimed the victory.

“I did bring it up to (Kerr),” Pargo laughed, “and he said, ‘Don’t tell me you were a Kerr’s Kid.’ He’s big in the community and a stand-up guy.”

Same goes for Pargo, who planned on playing in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) with Overseas Elite until the opportunity in Israel came about.

He’s been in quarantine since arriving in Jerusalem about 11 days ago. Players probably won’t be tested for coronavirus, but other safeguards, including temperature checks, are in place.

“I actually feel pretty safe,” Pargo said. “I’m not doing anything, not going anywhere.”

Pargo supports the NBA restarting in Orlando in late July as long as players continue to spotlight racial injustice issues and the need for change.

“With a lot of the players saying it would take away from what’s happening in the world, I think it would work if the players that are the leaders are stepping up with their beliefs and sticking strong,” he said.

Pargo doesn’t know how much longer he’ll play, but he shows no signs of slowing down. He averaged 17.2 points and 6 assists for Santa Cruz. A Google search for his high-flying dunks shows at least two videos from this season.

“My game is my game, I will be the same guy until I can’t walk anymore,” said Pargo, adding he’ll play “until I can’t do the dunks I was doing when I was 21. Father Time is always the one that gets in the way. He hasn’t grabbed me by the collar yet, but he’s trying.”

Pargo, who is interested in coaching after his playing days, has kept a close eye on Zag teams since his senior season concluded in 2009. He’s particularly interested in the current crew, with the decorated incoming recruits and the possibility of a preseason No. 1 ranking.

He’s fully aware of five-star guard Jalen Suggs’ prep career, noting “he’s damn good.” He watched Dominick Harris play in the L.A. area, met the player and his father and “built a little relationship.” Pargo’s friend coached Julian Strawther and insists “he’s really high on Julian.”

Pargo’s praise didn’t prevent the straight shooter from expressing his next thought.

“What I really want to do, with Gonzaga getting these bigger names and probably being No. 1 in the country, I really want to have an alumni game,” Pargo said. “The old heads against the young guys.

How might that turn out? Pargo’s answer, slightly edited for a family publication: “We would tear them up.”

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