Gonzaga is considered the crystal-ball favorite for class of 2021 top recruit Chet Holmgren, according to 247sports recruiting analyst Travis Branham.
Branham released his first crystal-ball projection Thursday on Holmgren, a 7-foot-1, 195-pound center who played with Zags standout freshman point guard Jalen Suggs at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis and on the Grassroots Sizzle AAU team.
In June, Holmgren trimmed his finalists to Gonzaga, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, Memphis, Georgetown and North Carolina.
“I think Gonzaga has the lead,” Branham said in a phone interview. “I do believe Ohio State is still in the picture and will play a factor and continue making its push. I don’t anticipate Minnesota backing off anytime soon, and they’ll be in the picture long-term. There’s been buzz generated with Michigan. How much of a factor that’s playing, I don’t know.”
Holmgren will likely take his time before making a decision, Branham said.
Holmgren was listed as the No. 1 pick in ESPN’s 2022 NBA mock draft released earlier this week. Gonzaga junior guard Joel Ayayi is projected at No. 21. GU junior guard Andrew Nembhard is No. 55 and his younger brother RJ, a high school senior who has committed to Creighton, is No. 46.
Holmgren possesses a 7-6 wing span but has the ability to play on the perimeter. He’s a capable ball-handler with shooting range beyond the 3-point arc. He’s added weight to his slender frame, and he’s an elite shot blocker with his length and timing.
Holmgren’s motor, competitiveness and high upside also separate him from other bigs, Branham said.
Holmgren and Suggs “go way back and those families have a strong connection,” he said. “Obviously Suggs had pro options pitched to him as well, but seeing his friend go to Gonzaga and come out the way he has and skyrocket to the top of draft boards, that’s naturally going to play a factor.
“With (past Zags) Killian Tillie and Kyle Wiltjer, you have examples of 6-10, 6-11 big men with versatile skill sets and how they utilize them.”
Holmgren visited Gonzaga in October 2019 for Kraziness in the Kennel along with current Zags freshmen Suggs, Julian Strawther and Dominick Harris. Suggs is the highest rated recruit in program history. He was No. 6 on ESPN’s top 100 and No. 13 according to 247sports.
Holmgren has played in some AAU events, and he’s apparently just days away from beginning his senior season at Minnehaha. The Minnesota prep season was pushed back by the COVID-19 pandemic, but teams can begin practicing Monday with games potentially beginning on Jan. 14.
About 10 days ago, Branham projected Gonzaga as the favorite for guard Hunter Sallis, ranked No. 6 by 247sports in the 2021 class. Branham remains confident Gonzaga is the favorite but a projection of five 247sports analysts gives Kentucky the edge at 54.5% to GU’s 45.5%.
Sallis doesn’t seem to be a hurry to make his decision, Branham said.
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