Duda Sanadze drops 38 points on Senior Night
MATTHEW ROBERSON | SPORTS EDITOR | @mroberson22
Since joining the University of San Diego basketball program as freshmen, senior guard Duda Sanadze and fellow senior, center Jito Kok, have lived and played through a wide range of experiences.
During their careers they have been vital parts of wins against the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, San Diego State University Aztecs, Brigham Young University Cougars, and St. Mary’s College Gaels, the four schools that any Torero would tell you are the most important on the schedule.
They have played for two different head coaches, Bill Grier — who led USD to a winning season in Sanadze and Kok’s sophomore year — and Lamont Smith. They have played alongside school record holders, and broken records themselves. They have played indoors in Alaska and outdoors at Petco Park. Now, as the duo says goodbye to the Jenny Craig Pavilion, they have begun to reflect on their careers at Alcala Park.
Sanadze is a native of Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, an eastern European country located over 7,100 miles east of San Diego.
After sitting out his freshman season with a redshirt, Sanadze jumped into the rotation for the 2013-14 season and made an immediate impact. He averaged 12.9 points per game that season and showed a strong rebounding ability for a guard. Sanadze averaged 11.5 points per game in his 40 career games at the JCP, a building that he left with the best performance of his career.
On Feb. 27, playing his final game on the USD campus, Sanadze scored 38 points thanks to a career-high six three pointers and 10 free throws. His offensive explosion was the catalyst to USD’s 85-76 victory against the Portland University Pilots.
The 38 points set a school record for Division I basketball, and fell just two points shy of the all-time record set by Robert “Pinky” Smith in 1972, before the Toreros competed on college basketball’s highest level.
Similar to many seniors, Sanadze had mixed feelings about playing his final game in front of the alumni, fans, and Bull Pit student section that comprise the JCP crowd.
“I was really happy we won,” Sanadze said. “But a little sad since it was my last home game. The school record feels good… it will be nice to have my name on one.”
While Sanadze was an offensive minded player whose job was often to create his own shot or find openings to launch jumpers, Kok was the defensive anchor for the Toreros who made opposing players think twice before entering the lane.
Like Sanadze, the 6’9” Kok is a European native. After growing up in the Netherlands, he chose to attend a basketball institute in Spain for his high school years. Upon arriving in San Diego, it became evident that Kok could be a force in the West Coast Conference.
He played in all 34 of the Toreros’ games as a freshman, taking the court against current NBA players Matthew Dellavedova and Kelly Olynyk and reaching the semifinals of the WCC tournament.
During that impressive freshman season, Kok set the school record for most blocks in a season with 55, a number that he would improve on in each of the next two years.
He is unquestionably the best shot blocker to ever don Torero blue, evidenced by the fact that he also holds the records for most blocks in a career (267) and in a game (9 – set earlier this year against the UC Davis Aggies).
Beyond shot blocking, Kok has also been a solid all-around player. He ends the regular season with an average of 7.5 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, and a 52.7 percent shooting percentage from the field, all of which are career single-season bests.
Known around campus as a fun-loving, gregarious soul, Kok stated that he will always cherish his time at this university.
“I’ve done a lot here, I’ve met a lot of great people,” Kok said. “In the end I think I’m going to be grateful for all the opportunities I’ve gotten here.”
One of the men who gave him those opportunities, head coach Lamont Smith, saw the win against Portland as a sign of strength and perseverance for a team that finished the season with a 9-20 record and entered Senior Night riding a six game losing streak.
“Having lost six in a row our guys might have felt sorry for themselves, but they didn’t,” Smith said. “We’ve been resilient like that all season. I’m really happy for our seniors. Duda [Sanadze] had a big night and Jito [Kok] tied his single season record for blocked shots. We now have some momentum heading into the WCC Tournament.”
The tournament will begin for the Toreros with a clash against the 13-16 Loyola Marymount Lions.
This first round tilt is scheduled to tip off at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, March 4 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, N.V.
For students looking to watch the final games in the illustrious careers of Kok and Sanadze, all of the WCC tournament games can be streamed online at WCC Sports.