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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga freshman and potential No. 1 pick Chet Holmgren enters name in NBA draft

UPDATED: Thu., April 21, 2022

Chet Holmgren signed with Gonzaga last April as the nation’s No. 1 prospect. Approximately a year later, Holmgren has an opportunity to become the Bulldogs’ first No. 1 NBA draft pick and announced Thursday through his social media channels he intends to pursue the next stage of his basketball career following one season at GU.

In the first of four social media graphics released by Holmgren on Twitter and Instagram, he wrote, “There is no place like Gonzaga,” and penned a heartfelt letter to Bulldogs coaches, teammates and fans while announcing his intentions to enter the draft, where it’s largely anticipated the 7-footer will be selected within the first three picks.

“Since the day I arrived in Spokane and stepped onto the Gonzaga campus, you all have been the best family anyone could ask for. This year, I’ve grown so much as a player and person from the experiences we’ve shared as I represented the Bulldogs on and off the court,” Holmgren wrote. “I’ve developed relationships that will last forever, and I’ve had the time of my life.”

Holmgren’s post didn’t specify whether he’d hired an NCAA-certified agent, which would leave open the option of returning to school for his sophomore season, but it’s widely expected the Minnesotan will turn his attention toward the next level.

Long before he committed to Gonzaga, draft analysts and experts targeted Holmgren as a potential NBA lottery pick. By most accounts, he lived up to those expectations during his freshman season while spending much of the year in the national spotlight.

Holmgren earned All-American third-team recognition from the Associated Press, Sporting News, NABC and USBWA while being named a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward Award, a semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy and earning West Coast Conference freshman of the year and defensive player of the year honors.

In his college debut, Holmgren turned in an impressive stat line of 14 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists against Dixie State and went on to record 13 double-doubles while matching Brandon Clarke for the Gonzaga single-season blocks record with 117.

During a two-game road swing, Holmgren posted 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks at San Diego before totaling 20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and five blocks only 48 hours later at BYU.

On the season, Holmgren averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots, ranking fourth nationally in the latter category. He led the WCC in rebounds, blocks, field-goal percentage (60.7%), while matching Gonzaga teammate Rasir Bolton for the highest 3-point shooting percentage (50%) in conference games.

Holmgren scored 39 points, hauled down 40 rebounds and blocked 13 shots in three NCAA Tournament games, recording a 19-point, 17-rebound double-double against Georgia State and scoring 11 points with 14 rebounds against Arkansas despite dealing with foul trouble and fouling out after 24 minutes.

“Thank you to Coach Few and the entire coaching staff for your belief in me and for your commitment to making me a better player and person,” Holmgren wrote in his post. “The lessons I’ve learned from you, I will carry with me forever, and I’m so grateful for the countless hours you poured in to supporting me and helping me take my game to the next level.

“To my Zags, my teammates, getting to put on the jersey and play with you was incredible. We went through so much this season, and it is something I will always be grateful for. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to be around. You made me better every single day.”

The Athletic’s latest NBA Draft Big Board lists Holmgren at No. 1. He’s the projected top pick according to mock drafts published by ESPN, CBS Sports and Yahoo! Sports.

The NBA Draft Lottery determining the order in which teams will make their picks is scheduled for May 17.

If Holmgren is chosen as one of the first two picks, he’ll become the highest draftee in Gonzaga history, edging out Adam Morrison, who went No. 3 to the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006. Holmgren’s former Minnehaha (Minnesota) High School teammate Jalen Suggs was Gonzaga’s next-highest pick, going No. 5 to the Orlando Magic in the 2021 NBA draft.

Holmgren becomes the fourth member of Gonzaga’s starting lineup to declare for the NBA Draft, joining frontcourt mate Drew Timme, point guard Andrew Nembhard and wing Julian Strawther.

Timme and Strawther are still eligible to return to school next season, but Nembhard is unable to do so after entering his name in the draft for a third time.

The Zags may not be able to replace Holmgren’s rare combination of rim protection, ball-handling and perimeter shooting, but they still have a chance to be formidable in the frontcourt next season, especially if Timme returns.

Reserve forward Anton Watson is expected back, and Gonzaga is in the mix for a handful of transfer big men, including Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq, the reigning WAC player of the year.

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