Barring a late addition in the recruiting cycle, Gonzaga is prepared to bring in its smallest high school class since 2017, when an in-state wing named Corey Kispert became the only prospect to sign with the Bulldogs, who went on to compete for the national championship less than a year later.
Gonzaga’s 2022 class, consisting of four-star forward Braden Huff, is beginning to resemble the 2017 version, meaning the Bulldogs will likely need to find alternate means of reloading a roster that could lose projected lottery pick Chet Holmgren, senior guards Andrew Nembhard and Rasir Bolton, junior forward Drew Timme, among others.
Fortunately, few programs have made better use of the transfer portal than Gonzaga.
Spokane has become a prime destination for Division I players – guards, especially – who’ve sought out a different college basketball experience for any number of reasons.
Below, we look at five potential transfers who could help the Bulldogs in 2022-23.
The list is subject to change and only includes players who’ve reportedly been in contact with Gonzaga’s coaching staff since entering the transfer portal.
Fardaws Aimaq, C, 6-11, 245
Previous school: Utah Valley
Five schools in the Western Athletic Conference won at least 22 games this season, so it’s saying something the conference’s player of the year came from somewhere other than New Mexico State, Seattle U, Stephen F. Austin, Grand Canyon or Abilene Christian.
Aimaq nabbed the award after posting 13.6 rebounds per game – second nationally to Kentucky All-American Oscar Tshiebwe – and becoming the only player in the country to grab more than 10 defensive rebounds per game.
The Vancouver, British Columbia, native, nicknamed “Big Maple,” was second in the WAC in scoring at 18.9 points per game and added a 3-point shot to his game, making 20 of 47 (43%) from distance after attempting only two 3s his first two seasons at Utah Valley and Mercer.
Tristen Newton, G, 6-5, 190
Previous school: East Carolina
The Zags employed two bigger guards in their backcourt this season, and Newton would also fit that bill with a frame that compares to that of Nembhard (6-5, 193). The El Paso, Texas, native entered the portal after a coaching change at East Carolina and on the heels of a productive season that saw him average 17.7 points, 5.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
Newton’s shown the ability to manufacture offense playing on the ball or away from it, meaning he’d still be a good fit if one of GU’s returning backcourt starters elected to return.
Newton isn’t a dead-eye shooter, making 33% of his attempts last season, and his turnover average (3.5 per game) could be a concern for GU coaches who watched Nembhard commit just 1.9 per game.
Andre Curbelo, G, 6-1, 175
Previous school: Illinois
Curbelo could be a high-risk, high-reward addition for Gonzaga – or any school that takes a chance on the reigning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. He averaged 7.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists for Illinois, which won a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, but all of those numbers signified a drop-off from Curbelo’s freshman season when the former four-star recruit averaged 9.1 points to go with 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
Curbelo, who missed 11 games with a concussion, shot only 32% from the field and hasn’t proven he’ll be a reliable 3-point shooter at the collegiate level, making 16% as a freshman and 17% as a sophomore. Many think Curbelo still has lots of upside and he has a few connections to Gonzaga, having played under Bulldogs assistant Stephen Gentry when Gentry was in Champaign. Curbelo is also a Puerto Rico native, which means he’s likely familiar with GU wing Julian Strawther, who represents the country at the international level.
Nijel Pack, G, 6-0, 180
Previous school: Kansas State
If Gonzaga loses Bolton, the Bulldogs will be losing their top perimeter shooter (46%) and the only player on the roster who made better than 40% of his 3-pointers last season. Like Bolton, Pack is a Big 12 transfer who’d be able to help Gonzaga immediately. He’s one of the top 3-point shooters on the market, having made 43% as a sophomore and 40% as a freshman.
Gonzaga’s winning culture seemed to bring the best out of Bolton in 2021-22 after the former Iowa State guard won 14 combined games the two years prior.
Pack could get similar returns coming from a Kansas State, which has won 23 total games since he arrived in Manhattan.
As of Friday, The Athletic considered Pack the top transfer/high school recruit still available. His ability to play either guard spot makes him an intriguing prospect, similar to Newton.
Johni Broome, F, 6-10, 235
Previous school: Morehead State
Only three players in college basketball averaged more blocks per game than Chet Holmgren last season. One of those was Broome, who rejected 3.9 shots per game, 131 on the season and as many as 12 in a game on his way to being named Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Broome ranked in the top five in the country with 23 double-doubles, averaging 16 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and the Florida native scored more than 20 points on 10 occasions. His season-high scoring total came in the OVC Tournament when Broome scored 32 points against Murray State. The All-OVC first-team selection pulled down a season-high 18 rebounds on Jan. 20 against Belmont.
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