canada africa partner reservation High-scoring Arkansas transfer Khalif Battle announces commitment to Gonzaga

High-scoring Arkansas transfer Khalif Battle announces commitment to Gonzaga

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Khalif Battle has amassed 1,343 points over the past five seasons at Butler, Temple and Arkansas, averaging a whopping 29.6 points over the final seven games of the 2023-24 season with the Razorbacks.

Battle’s next points will come in a Gonzaga uniform after the coveted transfer guard announced a commitment to the Bulldogs early Sunday night, a few days after completing an official visit to Spokane.

Late last week, Battle told On3.com that he had narrowed his list to three schools — Gonzaga, Kansas State and Villanova — and reports indicated the guard had been forced to decide between the Bulldogs and Big 12 Wildcats in recent days.

On Sunday around 5 p.m., Battle posted an image to his Instagram account with a photoshopped image of the guard wearing a white No. 0 Gonzaga jersey and the words “Zag Up.”

Shortly after Battle’s commitment, Gonzaga confirmed the news by posting the usual “Zags got dudes” video on X — a clip used when the program lands a recruit or high school transfer.

The addition of Battle solidifies Gonzaga as a top-10 team in the preseason and increases expectations that the Bulldogs could return to the Final Four for the first time since 2021 and potentially compete for the program’s first-ever national championship.

Last week, shortly before the transfer portal closed, Gonzaga confirmed that six of last season’s seven rotation players would return in 2024-25, including four of the five starters: Ryan Nembhard, Nolan Hickman, Ben Gregg and Graham Ike.

Few and his coaching staff will spend the next five months deciding how Battle fits into the equation.

The 6-foot-4 guard was Arkansas’ second-leading scorer last season despite starting just 13 of 32 games for the Razorbacks, who failed to emerge in Eric Musselman’s final season with the SEC program qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Musselman’s departure from Arkansas for USC prompted Battle to enter the transfer portal and seek a fifth school for his sixth and final season of college eligibility.

Whether the Zags maneuver around pieces to clear a spot for Battle in the starting unit or rely on him as a scoring threat off the bench, the Hillside, New Jersey native gives GU a level of depth they didn’t have last year – especially in the backcourt — and possibly only had a handful of plays during Few’s tenure.

Along with the aforementioned returners, the Zags bring back top reserves Braden Huff and Dusty Stromer, and add Steele Venters back to the fold after the former Eastern Washington standout missed all of last season with an ACL injury. Gonzaga also acquired Michael Ajayi from Pepperdine, last season’s WCC leading scorer, through the transfer portal. Ajayi is currently testing NBA Draft waters and was recently invited to the Draft Combine.

The 23-year-old Battle was a potent scorer at Arkansas, especially toward the end of the season. Battle scored no fewer than 20 points in his last seven games and had 112 over a three-game SEC stretch against Missouri, Vanderbilt and No. 16 Kentucky.

Battle has been an efficient 3-point shooter late in his career, shooting 35% from behind the arc each of the last two seasons after shooting 48% in seven games during the 2021-22 season before spending the rest of the missed a year with an injury.

At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Battle also gives the Zags size they didn’t have in the 6-foot-4 Nembhard or the 6-2 Hickman, and he showed a penchant for reaching last season from the free throw line, ranking first in the SEC and 36th nationally with 6.7 free throw attempts per game. The battle averaged 12.8 free throw attempts in the final eight games of the season, with 35 of them shot over a two-game span against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Battle finished the season averaging 14.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game while shooting 40.6% from the field and 35.3% from the 3-point line. During the 2022-23 season at Temple, Battle averaged 17.9 points and 3.6 assists.

With Battle in the fold, the Zags now have three open scholarships if Ajayi chooses to return to college instead of pursuing the NBA Draft. GU lost just three scholarship players from last year’s team, with Anton Watson using his final year of eligibility in 2023-24 and reserve players Luka Krajnovic and Pavle Stosic both entering the transfer portal.