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Former Gonzaga center Oumar Ballo announces he'll transfer to Arizona Wildcats
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Former Gonzaga center Oumar Ballo announces he'll transfer to Arizona Wildcats

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Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, left, and academic redshirt Oumar Ballo before speak an NCAA college basketball game between Gonzaga and Alabama State in Spokane, Wash., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

One of Tommy Lloyd's former recruits at Gonzaga is following him to Arizona.

Former Gonzaga reserve center Oumar Ballo announced Monday he will play for Arizona after entering the transfer portal on April 11.

A 260-pound 7-footer from Mali, Ballo redshirted in 2019-20 and last season averaged 6.3 minutes in 24 appearances.

Before arriving at Gonzaga, he was named the top international prospect by ESPN's Jonathan Givony after collecting 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks against the United States in a 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup game.

Ballo, who was given a "Baby Shaq" nickname because of his size, told OlympicChannel.com that he has been looked up to in his home country.

"So many people are named after me or having Ballo on their jerseys. There are so many Ballo Junior, Baby Ballo, the reason is that they think I'm special," Ballo said. "I didn't choose to be called Baby Shaq. People gave me this name. I have a big mission to prove to people that I deserve this nickname and will live up to the name."

Ballo will be the Wildcats' first player from Mali since Mohamed Tangara played in the final years of the Lute Olson era, and the first Lloyd recruit on the Wildcats' tentative 2021-22 roster.

Gonzaga center Oumar Ballo dunks during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Northern Arizona in Spokane, Wash., Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Gonzaga won 88-58.

His addition makes it 10 players the Wildcats have on paper for 2021-22 as of 8 p.m. Monday evening.

Earlier Monday, the club coach of guard K.J. Simpson announced the Southern California combo guard has received a release from his letter-of-intent. He is expected to consider a number of other Pac-12 schools.

Last week, guards Kerr Kriisa and James Akinjo entered the transfer portal, while Akinjo is also testing the NBA Draft.

A week after Arizona fired Sean Miller, the Wildcats found their man to lead the historic men's basketball program in Tommy Lloyd, who spent the last 20 seasons as Gonzaga's top assistant. The Star's Justin Spears, Bruce Pascoe and Alec White analyze the UA's hire, Lloyd's recruiting connections and background, reactions from alumni and fans, Arizona's roster and the program's future with Lloyd taking over.


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