Gonzaga’s Strawther Blossoms in Hometown Vegas, Honors Late Mum

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther couldn’t have hoped for a better homecoming.

After playing just seven minutes at last season’s West Coast Conference tournament in his hometown of Las Vegas, which fans were not allowed to attend due to the pandemic, the 6-foot-7 swingman inches played for the Zags in front of enthusiastic crowds.

Moments after top ranked Gonzaga crushed UCLA No.2 83-63 in the Empire Classic Championship game on Tuesday, dozens of relatives and friends clapped and cried as the Bulldogs left Strawther hoisted the trophy with a smile that shone like the lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

“Honestly it’s a dream come true,” Strawther said after Monday’s 107-54 win over Central Michigan. “When you’re a kid you always want to play in the biggest games, in the biggest arenas, in the biggest events. The fact that we’re here in my hometown, playing in the biggest arena possible, and playing some of the biggest games – that means it all. Especially having my whole family there to cheer, smile, have a good time, it just means the world. “

Sophomore Strawther averaged 13.5 points, six rebounds and 28 minutes in the two games at T-Mobile Arena.

“It’s really exciting for all of us to see how far we’ve come since last season,” said Lee, Strawther’s father. “He did a lot of work last summer to get to where he is now. But seeing him in person, at home, as an important part of the nation’s No.1 squad, and watching him grow and prosper, is something I’m sure we’ll never forget.

Strawther is especially excited to be with the family this week, with another game to come when the Bulldogs meet No.5 Duke on Friday. Her mother, Lourdes, affectionately known as Cookie, passed away in 2011 after a battle with breast cancer. While it will be her 10th Thanksgiving without her, the 19-year-old carries the memory of her support with her.

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