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2018-19 Player Preview: Filip Petrusev is the next big thing

Thanks to a robust international recruiting pipeline, Gonzaga is perpetually in a state of reloading.

Basketball: Spalding Hoophall Classic Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Lloyd rarely goes wrong with the European recruits that he brings into the program. The list is long with names fans know well and love, names like Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis, Killian Tillie, Elias Harris, and Ronny Turiaf.

Because Gonzaga has proven to be a great incubator for international talent, and because Petrusev arrives on campus with Top-100 recruit ranking paired with success for the Serbian youth teams and at high-powered preps program Montverde Academy, the expectations are for him to approximate the success achieved by his predecessors. Those expectations can serve as both motivation and a burden. Fortunately for Petrusev, he’s entering a situation where he doesn’t need to be a high-level contributor (yet) for Gonzaga to achieve its goals this season—though it wouldn’t hurt.

There is a lot on the mind of a young athlete when they are starting at a new level, and chief among them is (1) how do they fit in to the structure already in place; and (2) how can they get better. Gonzaga’s rich history of recruiting and developing international players, particularly European forwards, means there is a template in place that a new addition like Filip Petrusev can rely upon and trust.

Petrusev fits the mold of the modern day big man. At 6’11” and 225 pounds, he has the size and length to battle inside at both ends of the floor, and as demonstrated at the FIBA U18 European Championships over the last two summers, the versatility to play further away from the basket. Both Petrusev and Tillie have commented on how well Gonzaga’s style of play matches up with European basketball thanks in large part to the double-post offense implemented by Mark Few that gives big men the ability to play inside and out.

This season the Zags will have Tillie, Rui Hachimura, and Brandon Clarke leading the front line with Jacob Larsen also in the mix. Accordingly, Few will have the luxury of picking Petrusev’s spots and putting him in the best position to succeed while he learns behind talented players. But if he finds that Petrusev is further along than he thought, Gonzaga’s already formidable rotation gets even deeper, and adds more legitimacy to the program’s championship aspirations. We’ll have to wait and see whether there is reason for Petrusev to have a large role in rotation this year, but the prospect of what Petrusev brings to the table now and in the future is tantalizing.

When discussing Gonzaga’s international pipeline, Tommy Lloyd once said, “Fans always want to know: Who’s next?” Filip Petrusev is hoping its him.