The transfer portal has been good to Gonzaga in recent years, often with the addition of an experienced guard. See Rasir Bolton this season and Aaron Cook last year.
Transfer guards Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder were major contributors to the Zags’ 31-2 record in 2019-2020.
Gonzaga certainly isn’t immune to losing players via the portal. Greg Foster Jr. left GU after limited playing time in the 2019 season and transferred to Saint Joseph’s. He sat out one season under then NCAA transfer rules and made three starts last year as a redshirt sophomore, but he’s no longer playing college basketball.
Cook, Oumar Ballo and Pavel Zakharov, three backups for the Zags last season, entered the portal in the spring and landed at Division I programs. Here’s an update on the trio.
Cook still a Bulldog
Cook joined Gonzaga from Southern Illinois, where his senior season was cut short after six games by an injury. The 6-foot-1 guard received a medical redshirt and averaged 4.2 points, 1.7 assists and 13.4 minutes for the Zags.
Cook is now a rare sixth-year senior, using an additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA in response to COVID-19 interruptions to the 2021 season.
He’s found a bigger role with the Georgia Bulldogs as the starting point guard and team leader in minutes (32.5). Cook ranks sixth nationally at 6.8 assists per game. He’s fourth on the team in scoring (10.2) and first in steals (1.6).
Cook has led the Bulldogs (5-9) in assists in 12 of his 13 games. He’s had at least one steal in 11 games. The St. Louis native finished with six points, six assists and three steals in Georgia’s 81-79 loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Cook is three assists away from 400 in his career. He’s played in 146 career games with 84 starts. He had a career-high 12 assists against Western Carolina and 10 versus Cincinnati. He posted the first double-doubles of his career in those two contests.
Georgia charts deflections and Cook, a solid defender, led the team with 105 – the next closest was 81 – prior to the Texas A&M game.
Ballo bolsters Wildcats’ frontcourt
It wasn’t a big surprise when Ballo transferred to Arizona in April. The Wildcats had just hired former GU assistant Tommy Lloyd as head coach and Lloyd was the lead recruiter when Ballo signed with Gonzaga.
Ballo has settled into a backup post role for the Wildcats, ranked No. 8 and one of the top offensive teams in the nation. The 7-footer from Mali contributes 5.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game. He’s shooting 59.2% from the field and 67.9% at the free-throw line. He has 13 blocks, tied for second on the team.
Ballo has more than doubled his averages from his redshirt freshman season at Gonzaga (6.3 minutes, 2.5 points, 1.5 rebounds in 24 game appearances).
Ballo had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a rout over Cal Baptist. He totaled five points, five boards and two steals as Arizona opened Pac-12 play with a win over Oregon State on Dec. 5.
Zakharov exits Cal Baptist’s program
Zakharov logged 39 minutes coming off the bench as the Lancers won their first four games, but he’s apparently left the team and returned to his native Russia. He didn’t play in the game against Arizona when Ballo registered a double-double.
Zakharov saw limited playing time in two seasons at Gonzaga, which was stacked with frontcourt standouts both years. The 7-footer played 153 minutes in 29 career games at GU.
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