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Gonzaga freshman guard Jalen Suggs declares for NBA Draft

UPDATED: Mon., April 19, 2021

Gonzaga basketball player Jalen Suggs, center, waits for Minnehaha Academy’s Chet Holmgren to announce he will play basketball at Gonzaga during a news conference Monday in Minneapolis.  (David Joles)
Gonzaga basketball player Jalen Suggs, center, waits for Minnehaha Academy’s Chet Holmgren to announce he will play basketball at Gonzaga during a news conference Monday in Minneapolis. (David Joles)

Jalen Suggs is leaving Gonzaga after one memorable season for the NBA.

Suggs announced on Twitter that he will enter the NBA draft. It wasn’t a surprise considering the 6-foot-4 point guard is in the running for the top overall pick. He’s in the top five in most mock drafts.

Suggs made his announcement a few hours after watching former Minnehaha Academy teammate Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class, announce his commitment to Gonzaga inside Minnehaha’s gymnasium in Minneapolis.

Suggs was still at Minnehaha’s gym when he joined ESPN’s “The Jump” to discuss his decision.

“I will be entering my name into the NBA draft,” Suggs confirmed. “I signed with an agency. Super excited. I can’t wait to take this next step in my journey. It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid. I’m ready to get going.”

Suggs met and exceeded the high expectations that accompanied his arrival as the highest-ranked recruit – at the time – in program history. It started in the first 30 seconds of his first game when he dunked home an alley-oop pass against Kansas.

He hit the biggest shot in school history when he banked in a game-winning 3-pointer from 40 feet as the Zags beat UCLA 93-90 in overtime in a national semifinal. Suggs ended his GU career by scoring a team-high 22 points, despite early foul trouble, in an 86-70 loss to Baylor in the championship game.

“Gonzaga will always be family to me,” said Suggs, a consensus second-team All-American. “They treated me like I was one of their own, like I was part of their family from day one. Coming to Gonzaga was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals, but he seemed to be at his best against the best competition. He had 24 points and eight rebounds in his debut against the Jayhawks. He made seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in a win over No. 3 Iowa.

Suggs averaged 21 points in three wins over BYU. He nearly had a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists against USC in the Elite Eight.

“We are all extremely excited for Jalen as he takes the next step in his career and in life,” Coach Mark Few said in a release. “He has been an absolute joy to have in our program and our basketball family, and I have been blessed to be able to coach him and watch his development this past year. He comes from a very special family and we look forward with them to watching Jalen at the next level.”

Suggs becomes the second one-and-done freshman in program history. Zach Collins was picked 10th overall after helping the Zags reach the 2017 title game.

Gonzaga played most of the season with two primary ballhandlers in Suggs and junior guard Andrew Nembhard, who averaged 4.4 assists per game. Nembhard’s role would become even bigger if he comes back for his senior season.

Suggs helped Minnehaha Academy win four state titles and the team was ranked No. 1 when the 2020 tournament was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first time I saw him shoot around was when he was in second grade or something and you could tell he was different,” said Minnehaha coach Lance Johnson, who kept a close eye on this year’s Zags. “There’s just no jealousy amongst that whole team and they were all so mentally prepared and focused and well coached. It was a really fun team to watch.”

Suggs often competed with and against older kids on AAU teams, which could assist his transition to the NBA.

“I feel I can come in, even though I’m young, and be somebody in the locker room that can lead by example and just put in all the work for the team,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been practicing since I was a little kid.”

Suggs figures to hear his name called early in the July 29 draft. He’s No. 3 on ESPN’s top 100 prospects. Charles Barkley said during TBS’s coverage of the NCAA Tournament that he would take Suggs with the first pick.

Most mock drafts have Suggs in the top three with Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham and USC freshman Evan Mobley.

The athletic 205-pound Suggs excels in the open court, has the ability to penetrate and finish and he’s a quality defender.

“He can play the 1, 2 or 3, he’s a consummate leader,” said Brian Sandifer, director of the Grassroots Sizzle AAU program that featured Suggs and Holmgren. “As the game’s got bigger, his game got bigger. I think he’s going to be the NBA Rookie of the Year. The NBA fits his game better than even college.”

Suggs is expected to join a lengthy list of former Zags by signing with Wasserman, Adam Zagoria tweeted.

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