UC Santa Barbara signs two international basketball players with letters of intent | Sports

Coach Joe Pasternack fulfilled his vow to “walk the earth” to complete UC Santa Barbara’s roster for the 2022-23 men’s basketball season, receiving national letters of intent from two foreign players on Wednesday.

Evans Kipruto, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound center from Kenya, and Matija Belic, a 6-7 winger from Serbia, will bring international experience to the Gaucho roster next season.

“It will be a highly competitive environment in training,” Pasternack said. “Guys are going to have to bring it every day.

“I think it’s going to be a very deep team, but you still have to see what the new guys are really like. It’s hard to lose a four-time all-league player (Amadou Sow, who now plays in the NBA Summer League for the New Orleans Pelicans).

Pasternack previously signed Koat Keat Tong, a 6-10 All-State forward from Irvine’s Crean Luthern High. Andre Kelly, a 6-9 All-Pac-12 forward from Cal, will also join the Gauchos as a graduate transfer.

Kipruto averages 10.3 points out of 61.9%. shooting and 6.4 rebounds last season for national powerhouse JC Barton, Kan. Community College.

“He went to high school in California at Renaissance (Academy of the Arts), where Koat Keat went before he transferred to Crean,” Pasternack said. “He has three years of college eligibility left.

“He’s got a lot of length…We’re really excited about him.”

Belic, a 20-year-old freshman, has played the past three years for Mladost Zemun in one of Serbia’s top leagues. He averaged 16.4 points, shooting 41.3 percent from the three-point line and 5.4 rebounds per game.

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UCSB rookie Evans Kipruto averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds last season for college junior powerhouse Barton, Kan. (Barton Athletics Photo)

Although Pasternack has yet to see Belic play, he came highly recommended by the same contacts who referred him to Serbian center Dusan Ristic when he was recruiting for Arizona. Ristic went on to earn All-Pac-12 honors for the Wildcats.

“I’ve never seen him in person, but I heard he was pretty good,” Pasternack said. “I’ve watched a lot of movies about him. He can drive, he can shoot threesome – he’s very versatile and has some athleticism.

He’s still planning his schedule for next season, though he recently entered the Gauchos into the Jerry Colangelo Hall of Fame Classic.

“We’re playing Appalachian State in a three-way game at Phoenix Suns Arena,” Pasternack said. “We’re the undercard for the USC-Colorado State game… St. Mary’s is playing Wyoming.

“We still have one or two games to schedule.”

He is also on the hunt for a replacement for associate head coach John Rillie, who was hired earlier this week to become the new head coach of Australia’s National Basketball League Perth Wildcats.

“It’s crazy how many people are interested,” he said.

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