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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga notebook: Jalen Suggs finds learning lessons from first NCAA Tournament game

March 21, 2021 Updated Sun., March 21, 2021 at 10:19 p.m.

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs protects the ball from Norfolk State’s Mustafa Lawrence during the first half of Saturday’s game.  (Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs protects the ball from Norfolk State’s Mustafa Lawrence during the first half of Saturday’s game. (Associated Press)

Gonzaga freshman point guard Jalen Suggs has played in multiple state championship basketball and football games, prestigious AAU tournaments and gold medal games for USA Basketball.

Even with those credentials, March Madness was a new experience.

“It’s something I’ve been watching and looking forward to my entire life so it was a little different,” Suggs said. “I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but kind of just needed to get the first-game feels out of the way and get a feel for the pace and just being here in March.

“I learned some valuable things that first game. Even though it was a great blowout win (over Norfolk State) and we had it clicking, there are some things I picked up on that I’m going to work on and try to be prepared for (Monday against Oklahoma).”

Suggs was limited to 18 minutes by early foul trouble and finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists. It was nowhere close to his typical performance, but he said that a solid team win “couldn’t get the smile off my face.”

Suggs wasn’t in a smiling mood when asked about the disparity between the amenities at the men’s and women’s tournaments.

“It’s unacceptable, I don’t think there’s another way to put it,” said Suggs, who is close friends with UConn standout Paige Bueckers. “The way that those women have worked all season long to get to the point they are, the same exact work that we’ve put in, to have no weight room to try to get better, food is below standards, it’s not right.”

Suggs’ routine inside the controlled environment in Indianapolis: Breakfast, watch film, relax, talk to family and friends, work out, practice, watch a lot of TV and try to “keep my mind free.”

There was one exception to the daily grind.

“The only request I made was Chick-fil-A, that’s all I wanted,” he said. “If I get a little Chick-fil-A and kick back and watch a little ‘Criminal Minds,’ that’s pretty much a perfect day.”

Coaching advice

Head coach Mark Few was asked about Gonzaga’s rise as a national power by an Oklahoma-based reporter. Few cited numerous factors, including staff and athletic department continuity, facilities improvements and gains in recruiting.

Before giving his answer, Few couldn’t resist a jab. “First of all, you guys should have never let (former Zag) Domas Sabonis leave Oklahoma, I could have told you that.”

“No kidding,” responded the reporter.

Sabonis played one year with Oklahoma City before being traded to Indiana. He’s a two-time All-Star.

GU-OU connection

Gonzaga freshman Julian Strawther and Oklahoma sophomore Jalen Hill were teammates as youngsters in Las Vegas.

Julian’s father, Lee, tweeted several pictures of the pair wearing the same team jerseys dating back to middle school. Strawther, who had three 3-pointers in Saturday’s win, played at Liberty High in Henderson, Nevada. Hill was a standout at Clark High in Las Vegas.

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