After an outstanding 16-year playing career spent mostly in France, former Gonzaga forward J.P. Batista is returning to Spokane to join Mark Few’s staff as a graduate assistant, according to a report from Jim Meehan of the Spokesman-Review.
“It was a hard decision (to retire), but I’m trading one dream of mine for another one,” Batista told Meehan. “I feel at peace with it.”
Batista played at Gonzaga in 2005 and 2006, averaging 16.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 62 career games, earning the nickname “The Brazilian Beast” while becoming one of Gonzaga’s first great international stars.
Batista, 40, returns to Spokane to reunite not only with coach Few but his former teammates, Brian Michaelson and Stephen Gentry, who are on staff as assistant coaches.
“I’m trying to learn from the best,” Batista continued. “It was a big dream of mine to be able to come back and be part of the Zags again. It’s surreal, being back in town and we’ll see where that leads…I actually had offers to continue to play this season, but the opportunity to come back and join the Zags and learn from coach (Mark) Few and (assistants) Brian (Michaelson), Roger (Powell Jr.) and Stephen (Gentry) was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
For Gonzaga, adding another former player into the mix who has extensive experience playing pro ball overseas is only going to enrich the players currently in the program. Batista wants to impart his experiences onto a new generation of Gonzaga players, drawing upon the excellent experience he got from Few and his staff nearly 20 years ago.
“I see myself trying to do that for other athletes,” Batista continued. “Trying to be a bridge for the next generation and help other kids develop and maybe kids from international backgrounds.”
Andy hosts the Locked on Zags and Locked on College Basketball podcasts, and serves Locked On in a marketing/digital content creator role as well. He lives just outside Portland with his wife Jenna and dog, Tillie.