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Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren ready for first international voyage with USA U19 team

UPDATED: Sat., June 26, 2021

Gonzaga incoming freshman Chet Holmgren dribbles down court during his senior season at Minnehaha Academy in a March 10th game.  (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Gonzaga incoming freshman Chet Holmgren dribbles down court during his senior season at Minnehaha Academy in a March 10th game. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Chet Holmgren is ready to put his new passport to work.

The Gonzaga incoming freshman has accomplished quite a bit in his young career and he added another milestone – making USA Basketball’s U19 team – earlier this week.

That achievement means more to Holmgren than the numerous national prep player of the year awards he’s collected in the last month or two.

“I’d say it’s a lot bigger than a lot of those awards,” Holmgren said in a Zoom interview Saturday from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where the U19 team continues preparations for the FIBA World Cup, Saturday through July 11 in Riga, Latvia. “A lot of those (awards) are a committee of people that picked somebody. This is tryouts, competing against people over the course of a few days. You have to beat people out for a limited number of spots.

“It definitely means more that I had to earn this in front of people, if that makes sense, more so than some of these other awards.”

This marks the first time Holmgren will wear a USA Basketball uniform in competition. He made the U.S. team at the Nike Hoop Summit last year, but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’ll be the first time the Minnesota native will travel outside of the U.S.

“My passport is brand new,” Holmgren said. “It has my signature, and that’s about it.”

The 12-player roster includes six incoming freshmen and six with one season of college basketball under their belt. TCU coach Jamie Dixon serves as head coach, assisted by Stanford’s Jerod Haase and Yale’s James Jones.

“I feel great about the team we have,” Holmgren said. “It’s a great group of guys. We love to compete and love to go hard. All 12 of us are very talented in many different ways. I feel the committee put together a great fit for the team.”

The U.S. is the defending FIBA U19 World Cup champion. Former Zags point guard Jalen Suggs, who was a teammate with Holmgren at Minnehaha Academy and on the AAU circuit, was part of that 2019 team and two other gold-medal USA teams at the U17 and U16 level.

“Jalen said it’s been a great experience on and off the court. He’s made lasting friendships with guys that he’s friends with to this day,” Holmgren said. “You learn a lot and you get to see where you stack up not only against the best guys in the country but across the world.

“It’s an opportunity he told me not to take for granted. I’m trying to come out and go hard every day.”

Holmgren spent a few days at Gonzaga before departing for training camp at TCU.

“I got moved in and settled in for the most part,” Holmgren said. “I had a good amount of workouts throughout the week, lifting with (strength and conditioning) coach T.K. (Travis Knight). … “He wasn’t trying to kill me before I came out to USA (tryouts). He was trying to figure out where I’m at, get a base line, and then I get to hit it really hard when I get back.”

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