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2021-22 Player Preview: Martynas Arlauskas

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Gonzaga v Portland Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

Martynas Arlauskas arrived at Gonzaga in 2019 as a Top 50 recruit in the 247Sports rankings with prior experience playing for Žalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania (where Zag great Kevin Pangos played between 2016-2018). So, while a bit of an unknown commodity, the Lithuanian winger arrived with some level of expectations in light of those credentials.

As a freshman, Arlauskas logged 131 minutes of action in 25 games and tallied 31 points, 21 rebounds, and 4 steals across his appearances. That level of usage wasn’t high, but also not surprising for a raw freshman playing on a team that was headed towards a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before it was cancelled. And while he had not broken down the door for more minutes, there was some intrigue there based on what he showed.

Coming off that first season and faced with the uncertainties that COVID wrought in terms of developmental time with the coaches and access to facilities during the shutdown, Arlauskas did not exactly find a clear runway to take the next step and convince the coaching staff that he should have a larger role in the rotation. Couple that with the arrival of Aaron Cook, a talented group of freshmen, and the return of Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, Arlauskas ended up with fewer opportunities during a sophomore campaign which saw him feature for only 40 minutes. By season’s end, Arlauskas numbers had all dropped from the year prior with only 2 points, 5 rebounds, and a single steal to his record while stuck at the back end of a roster that had a legitimate claim as one of the best teams ever assembled at Gonzaga.

After his sophomore season, it was not unsurprising that Arlauskas’ name was bandied about as a likely outgoing transfer along with the likes of Pavel Zakharov and Oumar Ballo with the competition at Gonzaga only getting more fierce. While Zakharov and Ballo ultimately did take the exit door, Arlauskas opted to stay in Spokane and continue fighting for his place.

That attitude is admirable, and there is a lot to be said for staying put where you are happy, but in terms of his playing opportunities the road will not be any easier for Arlauskas despite the departures of Kispert, Ayayi, and Cook. Barring a major leap in his game over the summer, it’s likely that we’ll see Arlauskas fulfill the same role that he has occupied with the Zags over the last two seasons. But, perhaps, maybe there will be a surprise in store for Gonzaga fans.