By Dave Thomas

Name: Domantas Sabonis
University: Gonzaga
Year: Freshman
Height: 6′ 10″
Weight: 231 lbs.
Hometown: Kaunas, Lithuania
Position: Forward

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There is always a need for a big man in the NBA, so don’t be surprised to see some of this season’s top big guys in the collegiate ranks snatched up in the next NBA Draft.

That said, Gonzaga fans are likely hoping that Domantas Sabonis is one of those big men who decides to stay put a while longer in Spokane.

After a sweet run to the Elite Eight of March Madness, the Zags saw their season come to an end this past Sunday in a 66-52 defeat at the hands of Duke. With it, Gonzaga finished a stellar season at 35-3. Despite hanging with Duke for three quarters, the Zags were eventually worn down by a deeper Blue Devils’ squad which now moves on to the Final Four this coming Saturday in Indianapolis.

Sabonis Was Force On The Boards

One of the main reasons Gonzaga was one of the elite teams in the country this season was the play of its big men, notably Sabonis, junior forward Kyle Wiltjer and junior center Przemek Karnowski.The trio was not only dominant in defending and rebounding, but could also score in the paint.

For Sabonis, who led the Zags in rebounds during the season at a 7.0 clip per game, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it came to learning the game of basketball. If his last name sounds familiar, it may very well be that hoops fans remember his father’s days in the NBA.

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Arvydas Sabonis was a member of the Portland TrailBlazers from 1995-2001 and a second stint from 2002-03. When all was said and done, the elder Sabonis tallied nearly 5,700 points and 3,436 rebounds. The younger Sabonis obviously picked up some of his father’s talents when it came to clearing the boards for the Zags this season.

Among some of his top performances, Sabonis registered 18 points and nine rebounds in a second-round March Madness win over Iowa (87-68), 15 points and six boards in a 91-75 victory over BYU which clinched Gonzaga’s third consecutive West Coast Conference (WCC) title, and 18 points and 12 rebounds in a narrow 78-76 triumph over Pepperdine back in January.

When some folks watch Sabonis play, they may think that he is just another big guy who is there for one reason, grab rebounds (268 on the season) and find outlet players or shooters to put the ball in the basket. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.

For a guy his size, Sabonis is rather agile, able to get up and down the court with his teammates. One of the things that marked his father’s career in the NBA was his ability to pass the ball for a big man.

The elder Sabonis finished his NBA career with 964 assists, passing that trait on to his son. Despite having just 33 assists this year, the younger Sabonis does have the ability to find an open teammate when needed.

While Gonzaga fell short of its ultimate goal this time around, there is plenty of talent eligible to return next season if the Zags want to make another run of it. Part of that run for Gonzaga fans will hopefully include one Domantas Sabonis.

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Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.