Liberty junior wing Julian Strawther had some difficult conversations this month with basketball coaches from Marquette, Florida and UNLV.
He also had an exciting one about his future with Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
Strawther, a consensus four-star forward ranked by ESPN as the No. 36 prospect in his class, announced his commitment to the Bulldogs — who boast one of the country’s top programs — via Twitter on Thursday, ending an adventurous recruitment that began shortly after his eighth-grade year.
His commitment is nonbinding and won’t be official until he signs a national letter of intent in November, but he said he didn’t see the point in waiting to announce his decision.
Not when he knows exactly where he wants to be.
“It was a comfort thing. Not everything has to do with basketball…I’m going to school there,” said Strawther, who averaged 27.3 points and 8.8 rebounds last season for the Patriots. “(It’s about) just being comfortable, and I’m really close with everyone on the coaching staff.”
Strawther received his first two scholarship offers — from UNLV and Florida State — in 2016 and since has blossomed into one of the Class of 2020’s top recruits. The 6-foot-7-inch, 215-pounder is a natural scorer with prototypical size who can shoot from the perimeter or attack the basket.
Strawther accumulated more than 20 Division I offers. He announced 10 finalists in February and cut his list in recent weeks to Marquette, Florida, UNLV and Gonzaga, where he took an official visit in February.
The Bulldogs wowed him with their familial atmosphere and up-tempo style of play — they led the nation in scoring with 87.6 points per game this past season — and he committed to Few about two weeks ago before notifying coaches from other schools involved in his recruitment.
“The hardest phone calls I’ve ever made in my life,” Strawther said. “It’s so hard to turn them down, because you want to go to every school.”
Strawther’s father, Lee, said he had hoped — at least a little bit — that his only son would stay in Las Vegas and play for the Rebels. But the program is in the midst of a rebuild under first-year coach T.J. Otzelberger and hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2013.
Gonzaga — with 20 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances — epitomizes stability.
“It’s a well-oiled machine, and we just got that sense and that feeling after we completed the visit,” said Lee Strawther, whose daughter, Paris, played for the UNLV women’s basketball team from 2015 to 2019. “We didn’t intend to do it this soon. It just happened. We’re going with our gut feeling … I feel good about it. Let the kid be happy.”
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