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Gonzaga’s Malachi Smith to keep name in NBA Draft, posts ‘thank you’ to Bulldogs

After a productive season at Gonzaga that saw him earn West Coast Conference Sixth Man of the Year honors and help key a run to the Elite Eight, guard Malachi Smith is moving on to the next phase of his basketball career.

Smith posted a subtle message to his Instagram story Wednesday afternoon, suggesting he was moving on to the NBA after a lone season with the Bulldogs. His agent, Michael Lelchitski of SIG Sports, later confirmed to The Spokesman-Review that Smith would keep his name in the draft.

The former Wright State and Chattanooga player posted a photo of himself in a Zags uniform with the words “thank you,” along with two emojis displaying hands forming the shape of a heart.

Smith also entered the draft last season and went through a variety of individual workouts with NBA teams before withdrawing his name and transferring to Gonzaga. He provided scoring, rebounding and defense as one of the first guards off Mark Few’s bench.

A former Southern Conference Player of the Year and Lou Henson National Player of the Year, Smith averaged 20.9 minutes while playing in all 37 games. He averaged 8.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game en route to being named the WCC’s top sixth man.

Smith was Gonzaga’s most accurate 3-point shooter, making 45 of 90 (50%) attempts and shooting 53% overall from the field. He scored a season-high 27 points while making a career-high seven 3-pointers in Gonzaga’s 115-75 home rout of Portland on Jan. 14.

After Julian Strawther’s go-ahead 3-pointer inside the final 10 seconds of a Sweet 16 game against UCLA, Smith came up with a key defensive stand on the other end of the floor, stripping the ball away from Bruins guard Tyger Campbell to secure Gonzaga’s 79-76 win.

Smith isn’t widely considered to be an NBA draft pick and wasn’t invited to the recent NBA draft combine or G League Elite Camp – both held earlier this month in Chicago. Gonzaga teammates Drew Timme and Julian Strawther participated in the draft combine while Anton Watson attended the G League Elite Camp.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard from Belleville, Illinois, has been doing predraft training at Kollective Inc. in Austin, Texas, and posted an Instagram video earlier this month from a 1-on-1 game with Dallas Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons.

Smith received little interest coming out of Belleville High School and committed to Wright State after other offers from Lindenwood, Montana State and Denver.

After averaging 5.4 points as a freshman in the Horizon League, Smith transferred to Chattanooga, where he averaged 16.8 points as a sophomore and followed that with 19.9 points as a junior while leading the Moccasins to a SoCon championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

Smith’s departure leaves Gonzaga with one guard who logged minutes for the Bulldogs last season, junior Nolan Hickman. Gonzaga added coveted Creighton transfer Ryan Nembhard – the younger brother of ex-Bulldogs point guard Andrew Nembhard – from the transfer portal and bring in four-star shooting guard Dusty Stromer from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California.

Gonzaga could look to the transfer portal again to improve its depth in the backcourt after losing one starter and three of its other four guards from last year’s team – Smith, Rasir Bolton and Hunter Sallis – that went 31-6 and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion UConn.