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Thanksgiving traditions take a back seat to basketball for Gonzaga players while in the Bahamas

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 27, 2019

By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

A Thanksgiving meal, football and Gonzaga basketball are three things on the Spokane menu most every fourth Thursday of November.

Under Mark Few, the Bulldogs have played in 15 Thanksgiving tournaments out of 21 seasons.

Unfortunately for freshman Drew Timme, his Texas background might have to take a bit of a back seat when he takes the court Thursday as one of the three menu items could be unavailable to him.

With a victory Wednesday against Southern Miss, GU would play at 1 p.m. – meaning Timme would miss the 1:30 p.m. kickoff for the Dallas Cowboys.

“If I miss the Cowboys game, I’m going to be upset,” Timme said. “But if we get a win, then I don’t care. If the game happens to be during the Cowboys game and we win, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”

Growing up in Texas, Timme knows Thanksgiving as huge meals and the Cowboys game.

“Everything is bigger in Texas, so I guess we have bigger portions,” he said.

Matthew Lang likes to combine his food into a KFC Famous Bowl-like combo. He wants the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy all in one delicious bite.

Corey Kispert agrees with the strategy of mixing all his food together, even allowing corn into his combined bite.

Add in a slice of Kispert’s mother’s strawberry rhubarb pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and his holiday is set.

Could he substitute a store-bought pie if he had to?

“Oh, never, never, no, could never go back,” he said.

For Frenchman Joel Ayayi, his third year in the United States has given him a chance to play in these tournaments with his American family – his teammates and GU staff.

“Every Thanksgiving we have a tournament … to me, it is just a family holiday and I am out here with the guys and everybody who supports Gonzaga, and that is pretty fun,” Ayayi said. “We get to go to pretty cool places.”

Ayayi said he’d pass on any vegetables offered at a Thanksgiving meal, but he’s all in on turkey.

“I don’t eat vegetables, but turkey, I love turkey … every meat possible,” he said.

Fellow countryman Killian Tillie said that while Thanksgiving food isn’t French, it’s solid nonetheless. He signaled his favorite whipped cream by holding an invisible can over his mouth while making a ‘shh’ sound.

Spaniard Jorge Sanz, one of GU’s grad assistants, would pick another dessert over pie.

“It’s not very Spanish, but I love cheesecake. No sauce, no strawberries, straight up,” he said.

GU’s other graduate assistant, former player Gary Bell Jr., returned to Spokane after four years of playing overseas. He is thrilled to be home this holiday because he gets to indulge in his grandma’s sweet potato pie again.

“I’m glad I am back, so I can get it this year,” Bell said. “I usually get my own pie and I don’t eat it all in one sitting, but maybe in two or three.”

Ryan Woolridge also prefers homemade pie, his favorite being his mom’s lemon meringue.

The voice of the Zags on the radio, Tom Hudson and color commentator Adam Morrison, both love cranberries.

“You have to have it out of the can. You have to have the big jell that just rolls out of the can that you slice with a butter knife,” Hudson said.

Both agreed that Cool Whip is the preferred choice. Hudson said he doesn’t remember there being another option when he was growing up; Morrison thought it was more versatile.

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