Zags, NCAA put heads together on freshman Ballo

Oumar Ballo, Gonzaga's 6-foot-10, 245-pound freshman center from Mali -- nicknamed "Baby Shaq" -- hasn't yet been declared eligible for the 2019-20 season, as the Zags and the NCAA assess his academic years prior to his enrollment at GU late this summer.

"We're still working on that," GU athletic director Mike Roth said Friday. "He's here, he's enrolled, he's practicing, now it's just a matter of, let's figure this last piece out. Eventually, no matter what, he'll be eligible. The question is when. Is it next week, or after the semester [which ends in December], or is it after the season?"

Ballo spent part of his high school years at a British private school in Spain, Later, he moved to the NBA Training Academy Latin America in Mexico City, There, he obtained his high school diploma.

Ballo turned 17 only in July. In the summer of 2018, he averaged 21 points and 17 rebounds at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup, and in the summer of '19, helped Mali to a second-place finish behind the U.S. in the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, leading all rebounders with an average of 11.8. rated Ballo a five-star prospect and 247 Sports assigned him four stars.

"He's going to be special," said GU assistant coach Roger Powell.

It's not unlikely that Ballo's playing time would be limited in 2019-20 in any case. GU coaches have described him as being raw -- as well as young -- and the Zags' strength this season appears to be in the frontcourt.