It’s no secret that Gonzaga has become a premier destination for international basketball players thanks to the recruiting successes of Tommy Lloyd and the program’s sterling track record with developing and showcasing their talents. The appeal and stature of Gonzaga has attracted a host of talented athletes, and for Pavel Zakharov, it was the only program that he seriously considered before quickly committing.
Zakharov, the third-highest rated recruit in Gonzaga’s deep 2019 class, wanted to be part of a program where he could improve and compete against other highly talented players. He chose the right place to meet both those criterion.
The 6’10” center was limited to a minor role in the rotation with Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, Anton Watson and Corey Kispert all unsurprisingly ahead of him in frontcourt pecking order. But in his intermittent appearances, Zakharov demonstrated the offensive tools that made him a coveted recruit and suggest he has the ability to be an impact player for the program.
Zakharov definitely has a lot to work with in his tool box. He showed legitimately good hands, an ability to finish anywhere around the basket, sufficient athleticism to play uptempo basketball, and a good feel for post passing that Gonzaga requires from its bigs. His length is an asset, and as he continues to work on his body, grow his confidence, and advance his understanding of the defensive scheme he’ll force his way into the picture for a bigger piece of the minutes pie in a crowded Gonzaga frontcourt.
Patience may be the most important thing for Zakharov, as his turn may not come until the 2021-22 campaign if Petrusev returns (which all signs point to at the moment). Assuming Petrusev returns for his junior season, there will be 80 minutes per game to divide between the “4” and “5” spots amongst Petrusev, Timme, Ballo, Zakharov, and Watson (though he’s a 3/4 tweener). Zakharov will play more than he did this last season, but absent a massive leap in his progress it would be a surprise if he had a primary role in the rotation.
If he can wait and keep his development arc headed in the right direction, he has the skill set to be a key cog for Gonzaga down the road.