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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Former Gonzaga players launch ‘Friends of Spike’ program to help athletes with NIL

UPDATED: Wed., March 2, 2022

Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins hugs a hug from former Zag guard and current radio broadcaster Matt Santangelo after GU defeated Xavier in an NCAA Elite Eight game, Sat., March 25, 2017, in San Jose.   (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins hugs a hug from former Zag guard and current radio broadcaster Matt Santangelo after GU defeated Xavier in an NCAA Elite Eight game, Sat., March 25, 2017, in San Jose.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Two former Gonzaga basketball players are collaborating on a project that will seek to help Bulldogs student-athletes capitalize on their name, image and likeness.

On Monday, former GU men’s player Matt Santangelo and women’s player Shaniqua Nilles unveiled “Friends of Spike,” an NIL collective that will work to support Gonzaga basketball players and those in other sports with their pursuit of various sponsorship opportunities.

In a news release, “Friends of Spike” is described as “the bedrock to providing a long-term and organized NIL program around GU student-athletes. Supporters of the men and women who represent Gonzaga athletics as student-athletes now will be able to engage directly with athletes for corporate advertising campaigns, youth sports coaching sessions, brand representation, merchandising programs, speaking appearances and more.”

The NIL program will be sponsored by Spokane-area businesses Gee Automotive, Washington Trust Bank, The Wolff Company and Dealers Auto Auction, along with Santangelo and Nilles.

The announcement comes approximately four months after Santangelo, a Gonzaga player from 1996-2000, stepped down as executive director of Spokane Hoopfest for a job in the medical device sales industry. Nilles, a Spokane native and former three-sport athlete at West Valley High, played for the Zags from 2011-16 before playing six professional seasons in Europe and Australia.

“As former student-athletes here in Spokane, we know firsthand how much of an impact we can have on the community and the world,” Santangelo and Nilles said in the release. “Whether a student-athlete goes pro or not isn’t the point of participating in collegiate sports. Thanks to this long-overdue interim NIL policy by the NCAA and now by the State of Washington, current and future student-athletes at Gonzaga have the largest stage in history to share their favorite brands with fans and, most important, invest in their own future.”

Some GU men’s basketball players have already taken advantage of NIL opportunities.

All-American forward Drew Timme has announced sponsorship deals with Boost Mobile, Northern Quest Resort & Casino and Walker’s Furniture of Spokane. Frontcourt mate Chet Holmgren has a NIL deal with Topps Trading Cards. Sophomore wing Julian Strawther announced a partnership with Wake Up Call coffee earlier this week.

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