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Gonzaga Basketball

Key matchup: Former four-star prospect Wesley Cardet Jr. brings versatility to small-ball Chicago State lineup

Wesley Cardet Jr’s decision to sign a National Letter of Intent with Samford, rather than one of the SEC, Big-12, Big Ten, ACC or Pac-12 schools interested in his talents, might have seemed peculiar without the pertinent background information.

Cardet started his career in the Southern Conference before transferring to a program without a conference, Chicago State, last offseason. Cardet committed to Samford while his uncle, Gerald Gillion, was still the Bulldogs’ head coach. He spent one season there before moving on to Chicago State, where Gillion has been the coach since July 2021.

The former four-star combo guard who had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kansas State, USC and nearly a dozen other high-major schools, is Chicago State’s leading scorer. He averages 16.8 points per game on 45.5% shooting from the field, 36% from the 3-point line and 81.4% from the free-throw line.

Cardet is keeping up in a number of other categories . He leads the Cougars in blocks (0.7 bpg) and ranks second in rebounding (5.3 rpg), assists (3.2 apg) and steals (1.0 spg).

Gonzaga’s defensive strategy for Cardet will probably include senior forward Anton Watson and/or junior wing Julian Strawther. The ex-Samford guard has had one encounter with a GU player, facing senior guard Malachi Smith in an 80-72 win over eventual conference champion Chattanooga last season.

How Chicago State deploys Cardet on defense could be more intriguing.

Gillion starts a small-ball lineup that doesn’t feature anyone taller than 6-foot-6, potentially leaving the Cougars vulnerable against Gonzaga’s frontcourt duo of Drew Timme and Watson. Arol Kacuol, a 6-9 forward, is getting 10.9 minutes off Chicago State’s bench.

Facing a similar smaller lineup last month against Pacific, Timme scored a career-high 38 points and Watson added 16 in Gonzaga’s 99-90 victory.