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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Former Gonzaga star Jalen Suggs looks to break through in crowded Orlando backcourt

Sept. 15, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 15, 2022 at 9:54 p.m.

Tobias Harris of the Sixers looking to pass between Orlando's Mo Bamba (5) and Jalen Suggs on Jan. 19.  (Tribune News Service)
Tobias Harris of the Sixers looking to pass between Orlando's Mo Bamba (5) and Jalen Suggs on Jan. 19. (Tribune News Service)
By Khobi Price Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Magic have plenty of questions entering the 2022-23 season, which will tip off against the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 19.

One of the biggest involves former Gonzaga standout Jalen Suggs.

Suggs is part of a crowded backcourt in Orlando that also features Cole Anthony, Devin Cannady, Markelle Fultz and R.J. Hampton.

For Suggs, shooting caused the most concern during an up-and-down rookie season.

Among the 292 players who played at least 20 games and averaged at least two 3-point attempts, Suggs’ shooting percentage from beyond the arc (21.4%) ranked last.

Three-point shooting wasn’t expected to be a significant strength of Suggs’ game as a rookie. But the extent to which he struggled as an outside shooter was eye-opening.

His time on the floor was limited to 48 games played because of injuries.

How much Suggs’ injuries and being in out and out of the lineup contributed to those shooting woes isn’t known but could’ve played a factor.

Suggs made 25.5% of his 3s in the 21 games he played before fracturing his right thumb (shooting hand). That’s still a poor mark but a significant improvement from his season-long shooting.

In the 27 games he played after returning from the thumb injury, which included dealing with ankle injuries, Suggs shot 17% from beyond the arc.

Suggs acknowledged his shooting and ballhandling were skills he was looking to improve ahead of his second season.

He may not be relied upon as a ballhandler as much as last season.

Forward Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in June’s draft, and Fultz, who returned from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, will likely carry a significant load of the offense – making it more imperative Suggs improves as a shooter when operating more off the ball.

Suggs’ 77.3% free-throw percentage and 33.7% 3-point percentage in his lone college season at Gonzaga suggest he can become a much better outside shooter.

Whether he will should become clearer soon.

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