For the third consecutive day, Gonzaga fans received encouraging news relating to the Bulldogs’ 2022-23 roster.
Less than 20 hours after Drew Timme announced his return to Gonzaga, the Bulldogs got another commitment from someone named a conference player of the year in 2021-22.
After various recruiting outlets speculated Malachi Smith would transfer to Gonzaga, the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year and Lou Henson National Player of the Year made the move official on Thursday, announcing his commitment to the Bulldogs on social media platforms.
“I want to thank UTC (Chattanooga) and my coaching staff for everything they have done for me! I will always be grateful!” Smith wrote in a Twitter post that also included a photoshopped graphic of him wearing a No. 13 Gonzaga jersey. “With that said I will be committing to Gonzaga! blessed to be a Zag! Thank you GOD.”
Smith’s commitment caps a monumental 72-hour period for the Bulldogs, who learned Tuesday starting shooting guard Rasir Bolton would return to Gonzaga for an additional season before getting similar announcements from Julian Strawther and Timme on Wednesday, the final day for players to withdraw from the NBA draft.
“I wanted to have a chance to play for a Hall of Fame coach in Mark Few,” Smith told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, “to be a part of a winning culture, for a team that has a family feel.”
Similar to Bolton, Strawther and Timme, Smith went through the predraft process before withdrawing his name on Tuesday. Smith had at least one predraft workout with the Utah Jazz.
As a sophomore at Chattanooga, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Smith averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals, helping lead the Mocs to a Southern Conference Tournament championship.
Smith scored 12 points to go with eight rebounds in Chattanooga’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Illinois.
Smith, who opened his career at Wright State, made 49% of his field goals last season, shot 40.7% from 3-point range and made 82% from the free-throw line.
“Malachi is going to be a great addition to our program,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said in a school news release. “He does a lot of really good things on the floor, but his experience and leadership will also be huge.”
The addition of Smith solidifies what is already projected as one of the nation’s strongest and deepest backcourts.
Smith joins returning starters Bolton and Strawther, along with former five-star recruit Hunter Sallis and four-star recruit Nolan Hickman, who both played key roles off Gonzaga’s bench in 2021-22.
The Bulldogs also bring back another former four-star recruit in Dominick Harris, who’s expected to be available after rehabbing a foot injury last season.
Smith was ranked No. 6 on ESPN’s list of top transfers and was considered to be the best available transfer remaining in the portal as of Thursday. The Illinois native earned the Lou Henson Award presented annually to the top player in midmajor college basketball and was also named the most outstanding player at the SoCon Tournament.