Jul. 21—Joel Ayayi is returning to his home country next week to help the French national team prepare for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. That should make things fairly convenient for the next chapter of his professional career.
After spending the past two seasons on two-way NBA contracts, the former Gonzaga guard and Bordeaux native is returning home to play for Nanterre 92 of France’s top basketball league, the Pro A, the club announced on Friday.
The move reunites Ayayi with Nanterre 92 coach Pascal Donnadieu, who coached a France select team the guard played for earlier this summer during two exhibition games against Armenia in Los Angeles.
Ayayi is coming off a Summer League stint with the Memphis Grizzlies and told The Spokesman-Review he hoped to land another two-way contract, which would allow him to play with an organization’s G League team and up to 50 games with their NBA team.
“I think just like everybody here, you’re hoping for a two-way or a contract,” Ayayi said. “That’s what I feel like what everybody is. But yeah, I think I’m in the same boat, the same boat as everybody just trying to grab onto one of those contracts.”
In three appearances at the Vegas Summer League, Ayayi played 13.8 minutes per game, averaging 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He averaged 4.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in three games during Memphis’ stay at Salt Lake Summer League.
After signing with the Los Angeles Lakers as an undrafted free agent following his senior season at Gonzaga, Ayayi earned a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards in 2021-22. He played for the Atlanta Hawks at the Las Vegas Summer League in 2022 before signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Orlando Magic and spending the 2022-23 season with their G League affiliate, the Osceola (then Lakeland) Magic.
Ayayi’s pro career will resume in Nanterre, a Paris suburb located roughly six hours from his hometown of Bordeaux.
From 2019-21, Donnadieu coached a Nanterre 92 team featuring Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 center who was recently selected No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2023 NBA draft. NBA veteran Evan Fournier and former Washington State center Brock Motum have both played for Nanterre.
Ayayi’s older brother, Gerald, and former Gonzaga Prep standout Michael Stockton were teammates in the Pro A last season while playing for Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez.