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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Zags in the NBA: Former Gonzaga standouts Brandon Clarke, Killian Tillie and Zach Collins advance to postseason

UPDATED: Mon., April 11, 2022

A Gonzaga record 10 former Zags played in the NBA this season, including three that are moving on to the postseason.

Brandon Clarke has been a steady contributor in the Memphis Grizzlies’ rise to the second seed in the Western Conference. Teammate Killian Tillie saw considerable playing time in December and part of January.

The former GU teammates have a shot at joining a small club of former Zags – Adam Morrison (2009-10 with the Los Angeles Lakers), Ronny Turiaf (2012, Miami) and Austin Daye (2014, San Antonio) – with NBA championship rings.

Clarke’s numbers are in the same ballpark as his first two seasons, but he’s back to the efficient ways he showed at Gonzaga and as a rookie with Memphis. Despite averaging 4.5 minutes less per game than last season, he’s averaging 10.4 points on 66.6% 2-point shooting and grabbing 5.3 rebounds.

Clarke had one of the better performances of his three NBA seasons with 20 points on 10-of-10 shooting, five rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes in Saturday’s win over New Orleans.

Tillie’s status for the playoffs isn’t clear. He has played in only nine of the last 40 games and he has missed the last 12 games with a knee injury. The second-year pro averages 3.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 12.8 minutes in 36 games.

The Grizzlies equaled the franchise record with 56 wins. They’re one of the league’s deepest teams, reflected by their 20-5 record without All-Star point guard Ja Morant, who was back in the lineup Saturday. They have won 14 games by at least 25 points, second most of any team since the 1976 NBA/ABA merger.

Zach Collins is the other Zags product bound for the postseason. The 6-foot-11 forward has been effective off the bench in his first season with San Antonio after a couple of injury-plagued years with Portland.

Collins posted career highs in points (7.8), assists (2.2), field-goal percentage (49.0) and free-throw percentage (80.0). He was inactive until early February recovering from foot surgery, but he scored in double digits in six of seven games to help the Spurs make the play-in tournament, including 33 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists in a pair of wins over the Trail Blazers.

The 10th-seeded Spurs meet No. 9 New Orleans on Wednesday. No. 7 Minnesota tangles with the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday with the winner advancing to face Memphis in the first round. The Timberwolves/Clippers loser faces the San Antonio/New Orleans winner with the winner taking on No. 1 Phoenix.

The remaining seven Zags to play in the league this season will be spectators for the NBA playoffs this spring.

Rui Hachimura and rookie Corey Kispert were in the starting unit together for Washington’s last 13 games. They combined for 41 points in Sunday’s season-ending loss to Charlotte.

Hachimura, who missed the first 39 games for personal reasons, finished strong, scoring 21 points five times in the last eight games to hike his season average to 11.3 points. He reached double digits in 22 of his last 28 games. Hachimura made a career-best 49.1% from the field, including 44.7% on 3s, well above his previous high of 32.8%.

Kispert made 36 starts and averaged 23.4 minutes in 77 games. He averaged 8.2 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Wizards (35-47). He warmed up from distance over the second half of the season and broke Bradley Beal’s rookie franchise record with 112 made 3-pointers on 35% accuracy.

Rookie Joel Ayayi played in seven Wizards games and 29 with the Capital City Go-Go, which was eliminated in the G League Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday. Ayayi averaged 30.9 minutes, 10.7 points, 6.6 assists and 5.8 rebounds with the Go-Go. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a first-round playoff win.

Orlando’s Jalen Suggs, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, finished his rookie year averaging 11.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds. He made just 21.4% of 192 3-point attempts. Suggs missed about six weeks with a broken thumb in December and has played sparingly in the last month of the regular season due to an ankle injury.

Suggs scored a season-high 22 points against the Lakers in January. He posted double-doubles against Phoenix (20 points and 10 assists) and Indiana (14 points and 10 assists).

Domantas Sabonis averaged 18.9 points and 12.1 rebounds in 47 games with Indiana before being traded to Sacramento. Not surprisingly, the consistent sixth-year pro averaged 18.9 points and 12.3 rebounds in 15 games with the Kings. He missed the final nine games with a bone bruise in his left knee.

The two-time All-Star had 30 points and 20 boards against Boston on March 18. He erupted for a career-high 42 points against Utah in January.

Kelly Olynyk put up solid numbers for Detroit – 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists – despite a career-low 19.1 minutes per game in his eighth NBA season. He had a solid start with eight double-figures scoring games in the first 10 games, but a knee injury limited him to two games over a 2½-month span.

Olynyk scored a season-high 22 points against Sacramento in January.

Kevin Pangos made his NBA debut with Cleveland after several successful pro seasons internationally in Spain, Lithuania and Russia. The point guard averaged just 6.9 minutes in 24 appearances, but he did have a five-game stretch with 23 points and 22 assists when he saw more court time.

Pangos signed with CSKA Moscow but opted not to report to the team due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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