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Oumar Ballo, We Hardly Knew Thee

Fond and limited memories of the one they called Baby Shaq.

NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

After a season in which he redshirted followed by a season featuring limited minutes, the lore of Oumar Ballo at Gonzaga will forever be: What if?

This is largely because after two developmental seasons at Gonzaga, Baby Shaq decided to follow his connection of Tommy Lloyd to the University of Arizona, and although he most likely won’t be a massive contributor next season, there is nothing to suggest Ballo won’t be one of the more dominant big men in college basketball in two years.

Ballo flashed his potential at Gonzaga in short and brief bursts. He dropped 17 points on Dixie State. He went 3-for-3 in nine minutes against Luka Garza and Iowa. He put in 10 incredibly important minutes against West Virginia, holding his own against that frantic defense. At times, it left us craving for more.

The problem with limited minutes is that it is hard to extrapolate too much off of the good outings, and difficult to not be too critical of the bad ones. Ballo only averaged 6.3 minutes per game this season because of his struggles during the game, a unique ability to simultaneously look like he was about to unleash his potential and reveal his deficiencies, all in the same play.

Perhaps it was the thumb injury he suffered at the end of January, but the Ballo we saw during much of WCC play was not the Ballo we were expecting throughout the year. This was magnified, unfairly or not, because of the roster limitations—having Ballo able to provide 10 minutes per game would have been a massive boon to this roster.

As we saw this season, Ballo was just not quite there yet. He arrived at Gonzaga as a raw talent and he will leave Gonzaga as a slightly better, but still raw talent. For us Zag fans, it’s a bummer, because although Ballo would most likely not have seen an increase in meaningful minutes next season—the stage was set for his junior year to be a beast. By then, the frontcourt theoretically would thin out and it would be Ballo Ball Time, all of the time.

At this point, it is all hypotheticals. Personally, I’ll be rooting for Ballo to succeed, because once a Zag always a Zag. If that means we have to watch Ballo drop 25 points against the Zags in an NCAA Tournament game Gonzaga barely ekes out, I’m here for it. I want to see that potential because we all know that it is there, and hopefully, Lloyd can successfully bring it fully out.