Rui and Brandon

Former Gonzaga forwards Rui Hachimura (left) and Brandon Clarke were teammates for GU in the 2018-19 season.

The mantra of Gonzaga men’s basketball transfers over to the professional scene: Zags got dudes. 

This is evident in the most recent NBA All-Rookie teams announced on Sept. 15. Former GU forwards Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura were named to the NBA All-Rookie first and second teams respectively. Clarke and Hachimura join former Zags Adam Morrison and Kelly Olynyk with this prestigious rookie team award. According to a GU men’s basketball news release, it was the first time in West Coast Conference history that two former players were selected for All-Rookie in the same season.

Clarke is the first Zag in history to make an All-Rookie NBA first team, receiving a total of 92 first team votes, which ranks third among all rookies in the NBA. Clarke joins Memphis Grizzlies teammate Ja Morant, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn and Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall on the All-Rookie first team roster.

Clarke, originally drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder and traded to the Grizzlies on draft night, finished the season with 58 appearances and averaged 12.1 points off the bench. Clarke also tallied 5.9 rebounds a game and shot 61.8% from the field. 

Hachimura joins Miami guard Tyler Herro, Toronto Raptors’ guard Terrence Davis II, Chicago Bulls’ guard Coby White and Charlotte Hornets’ forward P.J. Washington on the All-Rookie NBA second team.

Hachimura finished the season with 13.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 48 games this season, all of which he started. The No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft shot 82.9% from the free throw line and shot 46.6% from the field.

Both Clarke and Hachimura represented Team World in the 2019 Rising Stars game during All Star Weekend.

 Both Clarke and Hachimura’s teams were invited to the 2020 NBA restart in Orlando, Florida, where each players' team fell short of the NBA playoffs. Clarke and the Grizzlies fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in a play-in game for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and Hachimura and the Washington Wizards failed to overtake the Orlando Magic for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.

For Zags fans across the country, this is music to their ears. Even though Clarke and Hachimura fell short of capturing GU’s first national championship in the one season they played together, the transition that they made from college students to professional athletes cannot go unnoticed. Clarke and Hachimura made many memories during their time at GU that fans will hold onto forever, such as Clarke’s poster dunk against Baylor during the NCAA tournament round of 32 game or Hachimura’s game winning shot against the University of Washington in The Kennel.

Clarke and Hachimura are also continuing their legacy as good international players in the NBA. With GU men’s basketball forming a mecca of international talent, Hachimura and Clarke will continue the NBA’s already successful plan of globalizing the sport, as both players are helping to draw more attention from Japanese and Canadian NBA fans, respectively, across the world. Clarke and Hachimura's representation as international ambassadors for the NBA adds another reason for Mark Few and the rest of the GU coaching staff, along with Zag Nation, to be proud of their achievements thus far.

Now here’s the scary thing for the rest of the NBA: it’s these young Zags' first year in the league. Imagine how much better Clarke and Hachimura will be once they are fully acclimated to the league and continue to develop as players and leaders for their respective teams. The leap they could make from year one to year two could be astronomical, forcing teams to circle Clarke and Hachimura’s names the next time the Grizzlies or Wizards come up on the schedule. 

Clarke and Hachimura are two former GU players who will continue to rise to the challenge and persevere through the ups and downs of NBA life, always reminded of where they came from and how they got to the position they are in today. They have both set the bar for current and future GU basketball players on how to do things the right way and take advantage of the opportunities given to them.

The Zags indeed got dudes, and no one would be surprised to see future GU athletes follow the lead of Clarke and Hachimura..

Vinny Saglimbeni is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @vinnysaglimbeni.

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