When Jalen Suggs was 2 1/2, he hit 24 shots in a row with a mini ball on a hoop draped over a door inside the family’s Minnesota home.
“I had my buddies over and they knew that was kind of odd,” said Jalen’s dad Larry, who put a towel between the hoop and door so it wouldn’t rattle as much. “We just kind of looked at each other. He was dribbling right- and left-handed at 3.”
By 4, Jalen was filling in on a U-10 team coached by his father when other players arrived late. By 5, he was playing quarterback against 10-year-olds. He memorized the plays and usually handed the ball off. If a play broke down, he followed dad’s instructions and raced for the sideline to avoid getting crushed by bigger defenders.
His first basketball scholarship offer came in sixth grade from former University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, who was convinced after watching Suggs play with a mix of pros, Division I and Minnesota all-state selections. Suggs came off screens and drilled 3-pointers and drained floaters when forced to penetrate.
Iowa State offered Suggs a football scholarship when he was a freshman at Minnehaha Academy. He kept getting better and bigger, maturing to 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds and becoming one of the nation’s top basketball recruits – ranked No. 12 nationally by 247sports in the 2020 class – and quarterbacks – ranked No. 24 at the position.
Gonzaga is one of dozens recruiting Suggs, who also has football interest from the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Georgia. Several schools, including Tennessee, seem amenable to Suggs playing both sports.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Suggs responded, when asked which sport he loves more. “If I have a football or a basketball in my hands, both bring me comfort and joy.”
Gonzaga has recruited plenty of multisport standouts, including several quarterbacks, during its rise as a national power, but never one with Suggs’ credentials. The highest-ranked prep player GU has landed is Zach Collins, ranked No. 30 by 247sports. Jeremy Pargo was No. 21 at one point and Josh Perkins was No. 24 when he committed.
It should be noted that many of the Zags’ international standouts weren’t considered in recruiting ratings and the list doesn’t include high-profile transfers Nigel Williams-Goss (No. 19) and Kyle Wiltjer (No. 18).
NFL quarterback Brock Osweiler orally committed to Gonzaga before opting to play football at Arizona State. Jeremy Jones was on Rice’s football and basketball teams. Blake Stepp, Ryan Spangler and David Stockton played quarterback in high school.
Demetri Goodson and Connor Griffin left GU basketball for football. Goodson played defensive back at Baylor and then in the NFL. Griffin saw some time at Washington as a tight end before joining Vanguard’s hoops team.
Suggs has guided Minnehaha Academy to three straight state championships in basketball and last year’s football title. He accounted for five touchdowns – three passing, one running and a 97-yard interception return – in the championship game.
Suggs didn’t take any time off after the football title game, attending basketball practice three days later.
“He’s a winner, that’s what he is,” Minnehaha Academy coach Lance Johnson said. “His game was created not out of physicality, but more out of an incredible knack for getting to the basket. He’s very shifty, his physicality came on the last few years. He can get to the basket, his shot was really good last season, and we post him up as well.
“Whatever he chooses, he has a legitimate shot at playing professionally. He always says he would never take anything off the table, but being his basketball coach I would say he leans basketball.”
Suggs, who visited GU with 2020 commit Julian Strawther in February, has been effusive in his praise of the Zags’ program. GU has been his only basketball visit, mainly because of his busy schedule with football, AAU and USA Basketball.
“They’re definitely high up there,” said Suggs, who also listed off numerous basketball and/or football powers still under consideration.
Asked if he has greater potential in basketball or football, Suggs responded, “I’d say it’s around equal. The only difference is if you go football you wait in college for three years (before having a chance to enter the draft), or do you go play basketball and wait one year.”
Suggs doesn’t have a firm timeline, but hinted at deciding in the near future so he can concentrate on his senior year.
Suggs and Gonzaga commit Anton Watson are at the USA’s U19 World Cup training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Players who make the 12-player roster will compete at the FIBA World Cup from June 29-July 7 in Greece. Big AAU tournaments in Atlanta and Las Vegas fill up much of July for Suggs.
“I had talked with my parents,” Suggs said. “I want to do it after Las Vegas, there’s three weeks until school starts. Maybe (announce a decision) in those three weeks or early on in the school year.”
In the meantime, the Zags, and a long list of schools, wait for the two-sport standout to make his final call.
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