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Gonzaga star to return for junior season

Ohio State v Gonzaga

BOISE, ID - MARCH 17: Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs gestures during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 17, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Gonzaga announced on Sunday afternoon that star forward Rui Hachimura will be returning to school for his junior season.

“I appreciate everything I have learned from the coaching staff and look forward to learning more and growing my game,” Hachimura said. “I’m excited to have another season with my teammates in front of Zag nation.”

Hachimura was a breakout star in the NCAA tournament, going for 25 points and four blocks in a win over Ohio State and 16 points and nine boards in a loss to Florida State. On the season, Hachimura averaged 11.6 points and 4.7 boards.

He’s a lottery pick-level talent, but he’s also a player that is quite raw. Defensively, he is still learning how to play, although his tremendous physical tools make up for a lot of the mistakes. On the offensive end of the floor, he is really effective around the rim and driving to the basket, but he’s shot just 9-for-40 (22.5 percent) from three in his two seasons as a Zag.

Hachimura is Japanese, and only came to the United States two years ago. He’s still learning how to play the game, but as a 6-foot-9 athlete with huge hands and a 7-foot-2 wingspan, there is plenty to work with.

With Hachimura in the fold, Gonzaga is projected as the No. 7 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.