Meet the Freshmen: Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis


The first time Domantas Sabonis serves up a behind the head two-handed dime with his back to the basket, to a teammate for an open lay-in, I will officially lose my marbles. I may be a bit ahead of myself, but say he even flips a pass to a cutting teammate from the post with moderately grizzled accuracy, or busts out a virtually unstoppable hook-shot I will need a solid couple minutes to catch my breath, fetch a glass of water, and maybe even seek a divine cleansing.

A little debrief on Domantas’ father is necessary given the legacy he withholds:  Arvydas Sabonis, 49 and retired, was perhaps one of the best passing centers and the most complete centers of all time who was dominant with an NBA career that began in 1996–well past his prime.  Had he been able to come to the Portland Trailblazers (who drafted him in 1986) at the time he was drafted barring Soviet sovereignty issues, he would have played on a dominant Blazer squad who reached the finals in ’92 (losing to Jordan’s Bulls, of course) with the likes of Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams. Since he produced a very effective NBA career with the knees of a 70-year-old, making the argument that the 7’4″ monster could have tipped the Blazers to de-throne Jordan is fully plausible.

Alright, back to Domantas.

I may sound daft comparing the greatest European center of all time to his son, but in reality their games are much different.  For starters Domantas is 6’10” and 215 lbs, so almost 6 inches and 75 pounds beneath his father–and he is a smooth lefty.

Domantas possesses a solid jumper, decent three point shot, and a very smooth post game, appearing comfortable and consistent with his back to the backset and finishing down low.

Even if just flashes of Domantas’ game mirror his father’s, that would be a major victory for GU and eye candy for fans alike.

Time oversees

Domantas’ entree to international play came as he dominated on Team Lithuania in the U-16 European Championships, snagging 27 boards in a single game versus Poland.  The next year, he suited up for the U-18 Lithuanian National Team in the U-18 FIBA European Championships, putting up more monstererous stats.  In an overtime win over Serbia, he chalked up 22 points and 22 boards.

In 2012, at the age of 16, Sabonis joined the Spanish A-League’s (ACB) Unicaja Malaga, competing at Spain’s highest level. In 2013 he went on loan for a short stint with the Clinicas Rincón Axarquía which competes in Spain’s second league, LEB Oro.  Although he played two full years of professional basketball, in order to maintain NCAA eligibility Domantas never signed with a teams.

Here is a highlight video of his time with Unicaja Malaga.

Impact at Gonzaga

Although young, the 18-year-old’s international experience will provide go-to depth behind Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer. He certainly has a bright future as a Zag, and continues a strong oversees presence in Gonzaga recruiting.  He is a quick and versatile big man who could potentially play a stretch-4 as well as a stretch-5.  Look for Sabonis to get solid backup minutes with sophomore center Ryan Edwards.  Obviously as a freshman he could be a defensive liability, but he adds a similar depth as now starting center Przemek Karnowski did as a freshman behind Kelly Olynyk.

Before he gives a glimpse of his game at the NCAA level, one can only hope he is a chip off the old block.