The basketball world continues to grow closer and closer. It’s evident in the nearly 100 international players who played in the NBA this past season. The same can be said for college basketball, as freshmen from around the world will play for American programs next season.
Some were born outside of the United States -- for example, Kentucky recruit Trey Lyles (Canada) and SMU recruit Emmanuel Mudiay (Democratic Republic of the Congo) -- but essentially grew up in the high school and summer basketball system in the U.S. Others are coming here to spend a year or two in high school to make the adjustment to college easier, while some are arriving to play immediately at the college level and must fit in to their new schools on the fly.
In recent seasons, international players have had major impacts on their respective programs. Gonzaga has seen success based around production from individuals including Ronny Turiaf, Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk. Niels Giffey was a key contributor to national champion UConn this season.
Here are a few players who may have an impact next year and over the next four seasons. The floodgates are open.
Sabonis is the son of the great Lithuanian star and former Portland Trail Blazer Arvydas Sabonis, so he was likely very familiar with life in the United States. It is one reason he should have a relatively easy adjustment to Gonzaga and college basketball. The other reason is that he spent the last season playing in the Spanish ACB league, considered by most to be the second-best league in the world behind the NBA.