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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s Michael Ajayi goes head to head with Washington State’s Isaac Jones, Jaylen Wells at NBA combine

They may be at odds next season as new rivals in the West Coast Conference, but fans of Gonzaga and Washington State both had their eyes on the first scrimmage that took place Wednesday afternoon at the NBA draft combine in Chicago.

Over the past few days, Zags fans have been following along with the NBA’s premier scouting event to keep up with Michael Ajayi, the former Pepperdine wing who signed a letter of intent with GU and plans to spend next season in Spokane if he decides to withdraw his name from the NBA draft.

Likewise, Cougars fans have been monitoring forward Isaac Jones and wing Jaylen Wells, two All-Pac-12 performers who helped WSU punch its first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 2008 last season and led Kyle Smith’s squad to an opening-round win over Drake.

Ajayi, Jones and Wells were all on the floor together at various points during Wednesday’s live action at Wintrust Arena, where 42 prospects took part in 40-minute scrimmages, played in front of NBA general managers, coaches, scouts and other front-office personnel.

Gonzaga fans were pleased but may have also had some apprehension when Ajayi led Team Herscu, coached by Portland Trail Blazers assistant Jonah Herscu, in scoring with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and a 2-for-3 effort from the 3-point line. Ajayi, who finished at a team-high plus-6 for the scrimmage, also tied for the scrimmage lead with seven rebounds in more than 18 minutes.

Ajayi entered his name in the draft prior to signing at Gonzaga and a successful stint at the combine could nudge the Kent, Washington, native to stay in the NBA and forgo another collegiate season.

The All-WCC wing, who was measured at 6-foot-5 without shoes at the combine, told college basketball reporter Andy Katz on Tuesday he’s still keeping both options open, and suggested he’d make his decision primarily based on feedback he receives from the NBA.

“If they want me to stay in the draft, then god bless, but if they want me to do another year I’ll be glad to go to Gonzaga,” Ajayi said. “We’ll have a good team next year and I feel like we can win a national championship.”

Ajayi expanding on his decision to play at Gonzaga.

“It was the right fit for me and Anton Watson leaving, that opens a role for me playing big minutes and impactful minutes. I feel like with (the returning players), we can win a lot of games and have fun doing it,” he said.

Jones, one of five players called up from last weekend’s G League Elite Camp to the draft combine, joined his former WSU teammate Wells on a team coached by Brooklyn Nets assistant Ryan Forehan-Kelly.

In a 91-80 win over Ajayi’s team, Jones, who played at Idaho before spending his final college season at WSU, finished with seven points on 2-of-3 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 from the free-throw line. He added six rebounds and three assists with just one turnover.

Wells was the team’s top scorer off the bench, totaling 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field, hitting 2 of 7 from the 3-point line.

The former Division II standout didn’t have an assist but committed two turnovers. Wells is also considering another season at the college level, but it’s unlikely to be with new WSU coach David Riley and the Cougars after the Sacramento, California, native entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.

Ajayi didn’t operate with the same offensive efficiency, but was still impactful in his first combine scrimmage, scoring nine points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, including 1 of 5 from the 3-point line, to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

During the opening scrimmage Tuesday, Jones scored 14 points off the bench, making 3 of 5 shots from the field and going 8 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Wells didn’t fare as well, making just 1 of 7 from the field to finish with three points.

Players also went through a variety of shooting and agility drills during their first day at the combine. Ajayi made 68% of his shots in a “college corner left” spot-up shooting drill, tying for 13th among combine participants, and knocked down 52% of his shots in the 3-point star drill.

Ajayi finished near the bottom of the combine with his time in the lane agility drill (11.77 seconds) and shuttle run (3.17), but he was middle of the pack with his three-quarter sprint (3.21) and in the bottom third for both standing vertical (27 inches) and max vertical (34.5).

Jones ran 11.49 seconds in the lane agility drill, 3.00 in the shuttle run and 3.38 in the three-quarter sprint while jumping 29 inches in the standing vertical and 35 in the max vertical. Wells clocked an 11.08 in the lane agility, a 3.03 in the shuttle and a 3.08 in the three-quarter spring. He posted 27.5 inches in the standing vertical and 36 in the max vertical.

Former Gonzaga guard Hunter Sallis, who was an All-ACC performer last season at Wake Forest, went through agility and shooting drills at the combine but opted out of the scrimmage portion.