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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Intriguing Chinese prospect Fanbo Zeng commits to Gonzaga

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 22, 2020

Gonzaga coach Mark Few and assistant Tommy Lloyd watch during the second half of a 2019 WCC Tournament game in Las Vegas. Lloyd has been instrumental in the Zags’ success recruiting international players.  (By Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few and assistant Tommy Lloyd watch during the second half of a 2019 WCC Tournament game in Las Vegas. Lloyd has been instrumental in the Zags’ success recruiting international players. (By Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Intriguing international prospect, typically a big with a unique background and skill set, commits to Gonzaga.

Sound familiar?

Chinese native Fanbo Zeng has orally committed to Gonzaga, which has prospered over the years with contributions from the likes of Rui Hachimura (Japan), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Przemek Karnowski (Poland) and Kelly Olynyk (Canada), thanks in large part to assistant coach Tommy Lloyd’s recruiting efforts internationally.

It was one of the main reasons Zeng picked Gonzaga over Florida State and numerous others.

“Gonzaga has been an extremely successful over the years,” Zeng wrote in an email interview. “I’ve watched many Gonzaga games. During the recruiting process, I was able to learn about the culture here. The program is filled with great people – coaches, staff, teammates and fans!

“The great tradition of developing international players was very important to me when I made the decision. Already can’t wait to join such a great family.”

The 17-year-old Zeng, a 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward, is comfortable operating on the perimeter or in the paint. He has 3-point shooting range, and he’s a capable passer and ball-handler.

“I think I’m a smart perimeter player with size, athleticism and range,” wrote Zeng, whose first name is pronounced “FAWN-bo.” “I love the game of basketball and enjoy hooping so much. I will keep working on getting my body stronger. That’s the most important thing!”

Basketball is extremely popular in China, the largest country in the world by population (approximately 1.44 billion). Seven Chinese players have played in the NBA since 1946, according to realgm.com, the most famous being six-time All-Star and Hall of Famer Yao Ming.

Zeng in August was invited to the national team’s offseason training camp.

He first came to the U.S. when he was 14. He has a head start with the culture, language and style of play compared to Hachimura, who essentially learned English during his freshman year and became an NBA lottery pick after his junior season.

Zeng played last season as a sophomore at Windermere Prep near Orlando, Florida, but returned to China when the school closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He completed classwork online while in quarantine in China.

He’s a top-70 recruit in the 2022 class, but he’s considering reclassifying to 2021 and enrolling at GU next summer. That would require completing high school in China and satisfying NCAA academic requirements.

Zeng was the only sophomore to earn Florida Class 3A first-team All-State honors last season after averaging 15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.1 assists.

“The strength of his game is his versatility and that he does so much well,” Windermere coach Brian Hoff told the Orlando-Sentinel shortly after the season. “He shot 47% from the 3-point line as a 6-9 sophomore. That is unheard of. He’s an outstanding passer. He’s extremely efficient. Great timing on blocking shots. He will be a unique player (at the next level) because he does so much well.”

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