Annually head coach Mark Few prepares his Gonzaga Bulldogs for WCC play with a challenging non-conference slate that also benefits the team in its NCAA tournament seeding, and that will likely be the case in 2015-16 as well. Thursday, the school released its completed non-conference schedule, and it’s a slate that includes an appearance at the Battle 4 Atlantis and games against Arizona, UCLA and SMU.
Gonzaga will have to account for the loss of guards Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley from last season’s Elite Eight team, but they’re loaded with both talent and experience in the front court with Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Damontas Sabonis all returning to Spokane.
The Bulldogs will open its season in Okinawa with a game against Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Classic November 13. Gonzaga will complete the opening month of the regular season with three games in the Bahamas, with Washington being their first opponent at the Battle 4 Atlantis with Charlotte, UConn, Michigan, Syracuse, Texas and Texas A&M rounding out the field.
December features home games against Arizona (December 5) and UCLA (December 12), and they’ll play Tennessee in the Battle in Seattle December 19. The Bulldogs open WCC play two days after their game in Seattle, with a Pepperdine team that has the players needed to crack the top three visiting The Kennel. Gonzaga’s final non-conference game won’t be played until February 13, when they visit SMU in one of two true road games they’ll play outside of WCC play.
Over the years Gonzaga’s had a great deal of success with international prospects, not just recruiting them but developing them into high-level college basketball players. Saturday head coach Mark Few landed another international prospect, as forward Killian Tillie became the Bulldogs’ second commitment in the Class of 2016.
News of Tillie’s verbal commitment was first reported by Jim Meehan of the Spokesman-Review, and he joins center Zach Collins in the class to date.
The 6-foot-8 Tillie, whose older brother Kim played at Utah, is a native of France who plays for INSEP Academy in Paris. Last summer Tillie represented France at the FIBA U16 European Championships, averaging 14.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in helping lead the team to the title. Tillie, who led the event in field goal percentage (63.4 percent), was named tournament MVP.
Tillie also represented France in this summer’s FIBA U18 3-on-3 World Championships, an event in which the French finished third. France defeated the United States team, which included Tillie’s future teammate Collins, in the quarterfinals.
Tillie and Collins are key additions for Gonzaga moving forward, as they’ll lose seniors Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski at the end of the 2015-16 campaign. Both Tillie and Collins have the skill to be immediate contributors for the Bulldogs when they arrive on campus, and given the departures they’ll need to be.
Sunday afternoon USA Basketball revealed the 12 players who will represent the country at this month’s Pan-American Games in Toronto, with the team being a mix of current collegians and professional players. Among those who survived the cut from 16 to 12 were Maryland point guard Melo Trimble and Wichita State shooting guard Ron Baker, who will be two of the top players in the country at their respective positions this coming college season.
Joining Trimble and Baker as collegians on the roster are Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, University of Louisiana forward Shawn Long, Baylor forward Taurean Prince, Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski and Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine. That group will be joined by five players who are currently playing at the professional level overseas or in the NBA in guard Bobby Brown, center Ryan Hollins, guard Keith Langford, forward Anthony Randolph and guard Damien Wilkins.
Serving as head coach is Gonzaga’s Mark Few, with Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and former NBA head coach Mike Brown being his assistants.
“It’s a group of hard-working guys who have done a great job in camp of really playing together and being unselfish,” Few said in the release. “They came into camp with a great attitude and mindset to really work, and now we’ve got to start formulating and playing to our strengths. This is a group that’s got some versatility, and I think we should be able to play a couple different ways.”
Beginning Monday the team will train at the Chicago Bulls’ practice facility until the 16th, heading north of the border following that for games that begin Tuesday, July 21. In group play (Group B) the United States will play games against Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Brazil, with the top two teams in each group advancing into the semifinals.
The four teams in Group A are hosts Canada (which will suit up a team that includes Anthony Bennett and Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray), Argentina, Dominican Republic and Mexico.