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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga forward Graham Ike makes most of return to game action during exhibition win over Lewis-Clark State

A lot has happened to Graham Ike in the 19½ months since he last played in a college basketball game.

He exited the court in a Wyoming uniform following a 2022 NCAA Tournament First Four loss to Indiana in Dayton. He had 14 points and nine rebounds while battling Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, now with the Golden State Warriors. He hurt his foot just over a year ago and sat out last season.

Ike announced in April he was transferring to Gonzaga and continued to work his way back from his foot injury. As a precaution, he sat out GU’s Kraziness in the Kennel in early October, but returned to play 20-plus minutes in a closed scrimmage recently against Baylor in Phoenix.

The sturdy, 6-foot-9 left-hander returned to the court Friday in front of fans for the first time since his last game at Wyoming, pouring in 24 points in just under 19 minutes as the Zags thumped NAIA Lewis-Clark State 96-58 in an exhibition game at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

“It’s a wonderful feeling just to be under the lights again, playing with such great guys,” Ike said. “Truly grateful to be back on that floor, pain free. It’s a wonder.”

There was no rust in Ike’s game as he dominated against the Warriors’ smaller frontcourt players. He elevated for a dunk on a Nolan Hickman pass . He added a layup on Ryan Nembhard’s assist and drained two free throws to score six of GU’s first eight points.

Later in the first half, Ike used a spin move for another dunk. He showed off his soft shooting touch with an assortment of jump hooks and buckets from close range. He finished 11 of 13 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds.

Gonzaga redshirt freshman forward Braden Huff had a close-up look at Ike in summer and fall workouts.

“It’s terrible, it’s not a lot of fun,” a smiling Huff said of guarding Ike in practice. “But I know it’s going to make me better, I just keep telling myself that because when he ducks me in (to post up), it’s not fun. You definitely feel it.”

Lewis-Clark State forward Grayson Hunt, a Pullman High grad, probably knows how Huff feels. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Hunt was giving away 3 inches and 20 pounds to Ike in the paint.

“He’s listed at 6-9, but bro plays like he’s 7-2 and he just has such a high release, not to mention he’s a lefty,” Hunt said. “It’s hard to guard a guy like that. He has a lot of touch around the rim. I should have done a better job of forcing him to his right.”

Ike studied film and watched games when he wasn’t able to play because of his injury.

“Like more from a coach’s point of view,” he said. “Just trying to see things before they happen a little bit, watching a little more film, watching a lot of basketball last year. That’s something I did a lot of while being out. It just helped expand my love for the game.”

Asked if Friday’s performance was indicative of his game, Ike said, “It’s a little bit what I do. These guys just make it so easy, just (getting) open shots. If people aren’t open, get it to another shooter and they can make something happen as well.”

It was a promising showing for Ike, who is expected to provide interior scoring after averaging 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds for the Cowboys in the 2021-22 season.

“All is well with my foot,” he said. “Everything feels great. We’re just progressively loading. The energy was great. That’s something I definitely took from (watching) Kraziness. To be part of it on the floor, seeing the fans go crazy, it’s a dream come true.”