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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga poised to extend impressive run at NBA draft on Thursday

In the middle of one of the most impressive runs by any college basketball program over the past three decades, Gonzaga’s built a resume that measures up to almost any in the country.

After Kansas and Michigan State, Gonzaga possesses the third-longest streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances at 24. The Bulldogs are the only program with eight consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 and Mark Few owns the top winning percentage (.836) among active coaches.

Gonzaga’s recent track record at the NBA draft, in relation to many of the country’s high-achieving high-majors, is also something to note .

After a two-year hiatus in 2014 and 2015 when no Bulldogs players were drafted, Domantas Sabonis was selected by the Indiana Pacers in 2016, launching an impressive run in which Gonzaga became one of the main fixtures at the annual event in late June.

Since 2016, the Bulldogs have had 10 players selected in the two-round draft and haven’t gone more than one year without at least one player selected. During that time, only Duke (23) and Kentucky (20) have had more players selected. Florida State matched Gonzaga with 10 players selected since 2016, but the Bulldogs have had more first-round picks during that span, with seven compared to the Seminoles’ six.

Programs with nine draft picks since 2016 include Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona and Michigan. Villanova and Oregon have had eight players selected during that span.

When Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard were selected last year, it made Gonzaga one of 13 programs with at least one player selected in five of the past seven drafts. Only Duke and Kentucky have had a player chosen in each of the past seven drafts.

Most projections suggest Gonzaga’s run will continue Thursday night when the NBA draft takes place at the Brooklyn-based Barclays Center . Presuming Bulldogs wing Julian Strawther, a projected midsecond-round pick, hears his name called during the event, it’ll mark just the second time in school history Gonzaga’s had someone selected in three consecutive drafts.

That last happened from 2004-06 when Blake Stepp (Minnesota Timberwolves), Ronny Turiaf (Los Angeles Lakers) and Adam Morrison (Charlotte Bobcats) were selected. Gonzaga had three draft picks in 2021 (Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Filip Petrusev) before Holmgren and Nembhard were picked up last year.

After an individual workout with the Pacers, Strawther said the level of competition he’s faced at Gonzaga – where the Las Vegas native practiced against three first-round picks over his first two seasons – helped prepare him for the caliber of talent he’ll encounter at the next level.

“It’s huge, just in understanding your role and understanding when guys have it going, just being able to get them the ball,” Strawther said in a video posted to the Pacers’ YouTube channel. “Just playing with so many great guys, you come to this level and everybody’s the best in the world, so just understanding everyone has their own talents and how you fit in.”

Strawther, who was based in Los Angeles during the predraft process, has had individual workouts with at least four teams: the Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets.

Gonzaga teammate Drew Timme, a three-time All-American who became the program’s career scoring leader last season, is a potential second-round draft pick, but most mock drafts presume the forward won’t hear his name called. If Timme and Strawther are chosen, it would give the Zags multiple selections in three consecutive drafts for the first time in school history.

Timme’s known predraft workouts have been with the Hawks and Lakers. The Texas native also said he expected to conduct a predraft visit with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who hosted Timme for a workout last summer.

GU guards Malachi Smith and Rasir Bolton aren’t projected draft picks, but they could have an opportunity to sign as undrafted free-agent deals or land on NBA Summer League rosters.

Smith has worked out for many teams, including the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards and Hawks. Bolton’s been through at least two workouts, one with the Hawks and another with the Hornets.

“I know where I feel like I stack up, but everyone else will have their opinion and that’s why in these workouts I have to just show it,” Smith told reporters after his workout in Portland. “I was at that level last year for a reason, and some might say it’s dropped off, but I just want to go back and show that hasn’t changed. Nothing’s changed in the past year.

“Like I said, I just control what I can control and (if) I just keep putting in the work, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”