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Four Zags make Naismith national player of the year watch list

No other program in the country placed four players on the watch list.
Credit: AP
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, right, speaks with guard Joel Ayayi, left, forward Anton Watson, second from the left, and forward Drew Timme during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cal State Bakersfield in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. Gonzaga won 77-49. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

SPOKANE, Wash. — The season hasn't started yet, but Gonzaga already has something to celebrate about.

The squad placed four players on the Naismith national player of the year watch list. Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, Drew Timme, and freshman newcomer Jalen Suggs all made the cut.

No other program in the country placed four players on the watch list. The next closest program was Duke with three players. Only 50 players were selected.

A mid-season 30 player list will be released in February. The top ten semifinalists list will be released on Mar. 4 and the four finalists will be released on Mar. 16. Players who do not make the preseason watch list are still eligible for the award. The trophy will be presented on April 4.

Kispert was a finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award last season and shot 43.8% from the arc in his 2019-2020 campaign. He also was named to the WCC's First Team. The senior is widely held as Gonzaga's leader this season.

Ayayi was named the 2020 West Coast Conference Tournament MVP last year. He burst on to the scene last season after having a relatively quiet first two years in a Gonzaga jersey. He took over a spot in the starting lineup midway through the nonconference slate and never surrendered it.

Timme is expected to make a huge jump this year for the Zags. He started hitting his grove last year, especially during the WCC Tournament when he went 7-of-8 for 17 points against Saint Mary's. The Texas native led Gonzaga in shooting at 62.1% last season.

Suggs is the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with the Zags. He ranked fifth in ESPN's Top-100 list in the Class of 2020. The Minnesota native averaged 23.5 points per game during his senior season at Minnehaha Academy.