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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

‘It’s an amazing place.’ Rising French prospect Ilane Fibleuil spends time with Killian Tillie, soaks up Gonzaga visit

Dec. 30, 2022 Updated Sat., Dec. 31, 2022 at 1:31 p.m.

Gonzaga recruit Ilane Fibleuil took in the Bulldogs’ 120-42 win over Eastern Oregon on Wednesday next to former GU forward and fellow Frenchman Killian Tillie.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga recruit Ilane Fibleuil took in the Bulldogs’ 120-42 win over Eastern Oregon on Wednesday next to former GU forward and fellow Frenchman Killian Tillie. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

Gonzaga’s coaching staff could have merely told Ilane Fibleuil about the school’s extensive history with international players, walked him down the hallway at McCarthey Athletic Center featuring NBA jerseys of European Zags like Domantas Sabonis and Ronny Turiaf, and filled him in on the Bulldogs’ impressive pipeline with Fibleuil’s home country of France.

Instead, the Bulldogs did one better.

Minutes before Gonzaga’s afternoon tipoff against Eastern Oregon on Wednesday, a special guest found his way to the baseline seats occupied by Fibleuil, his parents and younger brother Noa.

All three family members moved one spot over and Killian Tillie sat in a chair next to Gonzaga’s newest European prospect. Tillie, a former All-West Coast Conference first-team selection, who became one of the Bulldogs’ most successful French exports during his stay, chatted up the 17-year-old Fibleuil for the entirety of GU’s 120-42 nonconference victory, only taking a break to acknowledge a second-half ovation from the sellout Zags crowd when he was pictured on the video screen.

All of it could go a long way toward Gonzaga bringing another highly touted European prospect.

“So far, it’s been an amazing place,” said Fibleuil, a member of the 2023 recruiting class. “Great people, the coaching staff is great, too. They’re winning. I heard it’s the winningest court in all of college basketball, so definitely a great program.”

Fibleuil was relatively unknown before emerging at the FIBA U-17 World Cup this summer, where he led France to a 6-1 record while averaging a team-high 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals.

That’s when American college programs – Gonzaga included – began taking notice of the young shooting guard, who’s been playing club basketball for Pôle France, a team that competes in the country’s third professional division, the Nationale Masculine 1.

Before sitting next to one of them on Wednesday, Fibleuil had already done his homework on French players who’ve parlayed successful college tenures at Gonzaga to careers in the NBA.

Tillie played 54 games in two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies before being waived in October; guard Joel Ayayi appeared in seven games for the Washington Wizards and plays for the G League Lakeland Magic; and Turiaf played 11 NBA seasons with seven teams, winning the 2012 championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fibleuil, similar to Turiaf, Tillie and Ayayi, is a product of INSEP, the National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance. Tony Parker, Evan Fournier, Boris Diaw and Clint Capela also spent time at the prestigious Paris-based training center.

“I had the opportunity to go look at some French players that went to Gonzaga,” Fibleuil said. “Amazing program and Gonzaga has really good experience with international players, so that’s a cool thing too.”

Fibleuil toured Gonzaga’s campus and practiced at the Volkar Athletic Complex on Tuesday before watching the Bulldogs set multiple program records during a win over Eastern Oregon.

Afterward, Fibleuil spent time on the court getting shots up and mingling with the children of Gonzaga’s assistant coaches, eventually following Bulldogs assistant Stephen Gentry into the second-floor coaching offices. The recruit’s younger brother bided the time by dribbling around the court and hoisting shots on both baskets inside an empty Kennel.

“I’ve enjoyed the whole experience so far,” Fibleuil said. “I was able to practice yesterday on the court. That was the greatest part so far.”

Fibleuil projects as a shooting guard at the college level. He’s a strong ball-handler with an impressive outside shot, making 8 of 13 (61%) on 3-pointers at last summer’s FIBA event.

With solid size and long arms, Fibleuil’s defense should also be an asset for whatever program he chooses.

Multiple clips from the FIBA tournament show the guard anticipating a pass, picking the ball off and turning it into a dunk on the other end.

“I’m a guard. I can play point guard, too, but I’d rather play (shooting) guard,” he said. “I can drive to the basket, I’m athletic, I’m bouncy. … I just want to be better, so I think that’s a key as a player too.”

Fibleuil is encouraged by the current basketball scene in France, headlined by projected No. 1 NBA draft pick Victor Wembanyama.

“I had the opportunity to play a little bit with Victor,” Fibleuil said. “That’s Victor Wembanyama, the whole world knows him now. He can do everything a guard can do, so he’s amazing.”

Gonzaga was the final stop on a holiday recruiting trip to the United States that also included a visit to the Las Vegas-based G League Ignite and UCLA. Fibleuil told The Spokesman-Review those are his top three schools at the moment.

“That’s been a great visit to UCLA, to see L.A. … that’s an amazing program, too,” he said. So it’s been a good holiday so far.”

Fibleuil traveled home to France on Thursday and said he’d spend the next couple of months weighing his options.

“That’s a tough decision, all that is brand new for me and my family,” he said. “So, I’ve got to think about it. … I’ve got to keep thinking about it.”

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