Joel Ayayi returning to Gonzaga for junior season – Sat, 01 Aug 2020 PST

Joel Ayayi, whose breakout performance was one of the keys in Gonzaga’s 31-2 record last season, is coming back for an encore.

Gonzaga announced Saturday that Ayayi is returning for his junior season and he will not pursue any professional options.

Ayayi was one of three Zags in April to declare for the NBA draft. Center Filip Petrusev recently decided to sign with a professional team in his native Serbia and keep his name in the October draft.

Wing Corey Kispert hasn’t announced his intentions. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is Monday. Ayayi and Kispert have been on campus for team workouts and conditioning sessions, both of which have been limited by COVID-19 protocols.

Ayayi, a 6-foot-5 guard from France, emerged as a key contributor at the outset of last season and moved into the starting lineup in early December. He averaged 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds (eighth in the WCC), 3.2 assists (11th) and 1.3 steals (10th). His 2.08 assist-to-turnover ratio was fourth in the WCC.

He became a reliable playmaker, capable of scoring or creating opportunities for teammates. He had a knack for making clutch shots, including a late 3-pointer that helped Gonzaga hold off Washington in Seattle.

Ayayi closed the season by earning MVP honors at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas. He averaged 15.5 points and 8 rebounds in two GU wins. The Zags thumped Saint Mary’s in the championship game but the NCAA Tournament was canceled a few days later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ayayi figures to join freshman Jalen Suggs, sophomores Anton Watson and Drew Timme and Kispert, if he elects to return, in the starting lineup. 

This article will be updated.

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