Tag: Domantas Sabonis

Josh Oglesby, Domantas Sabonis

Sabonis status unclear for Gonzaga’s opener in Japan

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) It’s unclear if heralded forward Domantas Sabonis will be able to play when No. 9 Gonzaga opens its season Friday against Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Classic in Okinawa, Japan.

Sabonis took a hard fall on his lower back last weekend during an exhibition game against Eastern Oregon and remains sore.

Sabonis is expected to travel to Okinawa with the team on Tuesday.

The Spokesman-Review reported his status for the Pitt game will be determined later in the week.

Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

Domantas Sabonis exits Gonzaga’s exhibition win after nasty fall

Josh Oglesby, Domantas Sabonis
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Gonzaga earned a blowout win over Eastern Oregon on Saturday night in an exhibition game, but the team lost sophomore center Domantas Sabonis in the first half after he took a hard fall on his back.

According to a report from Jim Meehan of The Spokesman-Review, Sabonis landed on the small of his back early in the first half. The sophomore tried to return to action later, but showed signs of discomfort:

“He just came down on it (lower back) really hard,” coach Mark Few said. “At this point, I have to sit down and talk to the trainer and we’ll have to see how bad it is. It was giving him some problems when he went back out and tried to play.”

Gonzaga’s rotation is essentially nine deep, counting Sabonis, one of the team’s four bigs. When the 6-foot-11 sophomore headed to the bench following his brief return, he chatted with Few for a few seconds, then swung a towel in frustration. He sat on the bench with a heat pad on his back/hip, rising slowly from his seat during timeouts. He’s expected to see a doctor Sunday.

While it doesn’t seem like Sabonis hurt anything that badly if he tried to play more in a meaningless game, it does give Gonzaga some concerns about how he’ll look in the season opener against Pitt. That’s because the game is being played in Okinawa, Japan as part of the Armed Forces Classic. Gonzaga leaves for Japan on Tuesday, which means the 6-foot-11 Sabonis will have to endure about 18 hours on a plane with a bad back. It’s hard enough for someone that size to be on a flight that long, let alone with an ailing back. Will Sabonis be healthy enough to be a major factor in that game?

Besides Sabonis going down with injury, Gonzaga has to be concerned about its lack of perimeter shooting in the win. The Zags were only 5-for-31 from 3-point range and didn’t shoot particularly well overall. Senior Kyle Wiltjer had a huge outing with 33 points and 14 rebounds, but Gonzaga is going to need more from their backcourt to be an elite team this season.

Guard situation unsettled at No. 9 Gonzaga, front court set

Associated Press
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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) No. 9 Gonzaga will enter the season set just about everywhere except at guard, a position of stability for years that now raises questions.

Not that coach Mark Few is without potential answers.

Four-year starting guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. graduated along with senior transfer Byron Wesley, leaving the Zags looking for the right back court combination among a host of talented options as they seek another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman Josh Perkins, who is a candidate to replace Pangos at point guard, said practices have been intense as he battles with fellow guards Kyle Dranginis, Eric McClellan and Silas Melson to catch the eye of coaches.

“We are all playing for minutes,” Perkins said. “We’re going to push each other.”

Gonzaga’s situation is settled elsewhere. The Zags return the talented front court of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski to a team that reached the Elite Eight last season, though Few said “this team is a little void of leaders.”

“This is very much a team that will hopefully be on a growth trend all year,” Few said. “We are trying to hit the Zags standard.”

Much of Gonzaga’s success will depend on the three big men, who are all considered pro prospects.

The 6-foot-10 Wiltjer led the Zags in scoring with 16.8 points per game last season and added 6.2 rebounds.

“Kyle is as skilled a player as there is in college basketball,” Few said. “As skilled as I’ve ever coached.”

Sabonis, the 6-11 son of former NBA center Arvydas Sabonis, averaged 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a freshman off the bench.

“With Domas, you get the heart of a lion,” Few said. “The guy is so physical, tough and aggressive and yet has a good feel for the game.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and blocked 39 shots.

“Shem is the unsung hero in all this and a guy I think will be a solid NBA guy for years,” Few said. “An excellent passer, great footwork and a high-level defender.”

The Zags went 35-3 last season, losing to eventual national champion Duke in the Elite Eight. They were 17-1 in the West Coast Conference, losing only at home to BYU.

WCC coaches have picked the Zags to win their fourth straight league title and 15th in the past 16 years. They have played in 17 straight NCAA tournaments, one of the longest streaks in the nation.

Things to watch at Gonzaga this season:

THE SCHEDULE: Gonzaga plays its typical killer nonconference schedule, designed to make up for playing in the modest WCC. This year they open against Pittsburgh in Okinawa, Japan, play Washington in the Bahamas, host No. 12 Arizona and UCLA in Spokane, play Tennessee in Seattle and SMU in Dallas.

THE GREAT KARNOWSKI: Karnowski, who goes by Shem, is on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year watch list. The native of Poland clogs up the middle with his bulky frame and shot .622 from the field last year. Karnowski played with the Polish national team in the European Championships.

WILTJER DOESN’T WILT: Forward Kyle Wiltjer was named the CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year. Last season he led the team with 16.8 points per game and shot a team-best .466 from behind the arc while making 68 3-pointers. Wiltjer played two years at Kentucky, where he won a national title. Last year was his first with the Zags, and he was named an AP Third-Team All-American.

RELOADING: The cupboard is never bare at Gonzaga. This year they have three transfers sitting out who become eligible next season. They include Nigel Williams-Goss, who led Washington in scoring last season, plus Johnathan Williams from Missouri and Jeremy Jones from Rice.