Michael Ajayi on his commitment to Gonzaga: ‘I felt like it was the place to be’

'Mark Few is a really great coach. He takes players to the next level and that’s where I want to be,' Ajayi said.
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Michael Ajayi didn’t spend much time in the transfer portal before he committed to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Kent, Washington, native entered his name into the portal less than a week after Pepperdine’s loss to San Diego in the West Coast Conference Tournament. Ajayi drew interest from numerous power conference programs, though his ties with the Pacific Northwest and growing connection with Gonzaga assistant coach R-Jay Barsh made the idea of playing his final year of college basketball in Spokane too enticing to pass up.

“After the WCC Tournament, I entered the transfer portal, was looking for schools and R-Jay Barsh, he was on me like ASAP,” Ajayi said.

Barsh’s connections to the greater Seattle area go back to his days as a coach at the JUCO level, especially from his time at Tacoma Community College in the Northwest Athletic Conference. Ajayi, who played at Pierce Community College before his one season at Pepperdine, gained a sense of familiarity with Barsh based on the relationships the two share with the greater Seattle area hoops scene.

But college wasn’t the only option on the table — Ajayi had his eyes set on the NBA as well. After putting his name into draft consideration, the 6-foot-7 All-WCC wing went through the draft combine in Chicago where he showcased his talents and athleticism in front of numerous scouts and general managers.

Ajayi stuffed the stat sheet in his first combine scrimmage: nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. The next day, he dropped 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. In tests, he posted a 34.5-inch max vertical and a 27.0-inch standing vertical.

“It was a great process, I learned a lot,” Ajayi said. “Just wanted to have my name out there more because I didn’t have that much buzz, so I just wanted to go into every workout and show GMs and coaches what I’m all about.”

Ajayi’s name didn’t fly up draft boards at the last minute (though he’s shaping up to be a legit 2025 prospect) and as such he announced he’d play out his final season at Gonzaga, where he settles into highly competitive practice sessions and sharpens his iron against Graham Ike, Braden Huff and Ben Gregg.

“Each practice is really intense and competitive,” said Ajayi. “When Mark Few’s there you don’t want to mess up, so you always want to do your best and try to make few mistakes. I feel like it elevates my game even more.”

“I felt like it was the place to be,” Ajayi said of Gonzaga. “Parents can come to all the games and Mark Few is a really great coach. He takes players to the next level and that’s where I want to be.” 

Ajayi discussed his commitment to Gonzaga, the NBA Draft combine and much more on a new Gonzaga Nation episode.


Produced by Thomas Gallagher.


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Cole Forsman


Cole Forsman is a reporter for Gonzaga Nation, a member of Sports Illustrated’s FanNation network. Cole holds a degree in Journalism and Sports Management from Gonzaga University.