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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

‘I loved it:’ Former Gonzaga standout Jalen Suggs watches Julian Strawther hit game-winner vs. BYU

Jan. 12, 2023 Updated Thu., Jan. 12, 2023 at 10:20 p.m.

PROVO, Utah – Jalen Suggs has had his eye on the Gonzaga-BYU game for a long time after scanning Orlando’s schedule and realizing it was the day before his Magic faced Utah in Salt Lake City.

Suggs watched intently Thursday from the first row behind Gonzaga’s bench with Orlando teammate and Seattle native Paolo Banchero, a longtime friend of GU sophomore guard Nolan Hickman.

“Anytime I get to see the Zags live, see ‘B-Mike’ (assistant coach Brian Michaelson), Coach (Mark) Few, Coach Rog (Powell Jr.), Julian (Strawther), Drew (Timme) and all the guys, yeah, I’ve been locked in with this one for a while,” Suggs, who is in his second year with the Magic after one memorable season at Gonzaga, said at halftime.

It couldn’t have turned out any better from Suggs’ vantage point as close friend Strawther buried a game-winning 3-pointer from 26 feet in Gonzaga’s thrilling 75-74 comeback victory over the Cougars. Suggs and Strawther arrived in Spokane at the same time as part of GU’s 2020 recruiting class.

“I loved it,” Suggs said outside Gonzaga’s locker room in the Marriott Center. “Put the dagger in them, let’s go home, let’s go back to Spokane.”

The celebration continued shortly after the final buzzer sounded.

“He was super excited when it went in,” Strawther said of Suggs. “He was giving me a whole bunch of hugs back here. It was super cool that he had the opportunity to come, (former Zag) Kelly (Olynyk), all those guys.”

Olynyk, who is in his first season with the Jazz, watched from a courtside seat.

Suggs recently returned to action after missing 19 games with a knee injury. He’s played in four games, including a 14-point, four-assist, four-rebound effort against Sacramento on Monday. He had nine points in a road win over Golden State last Saturday.

“I’m good,” Suggs smiled. “All good.”

Suggs’ first-half assessment with Gonzaga holding a 44-39 lead: “Couple too many turnovers, we’ll take some of those away. The BYU game is tough, it’s always hard playing them and there’s a good crowd here.”

Suggs didn’t get to experience a full house of nearly 19,000 at the Marriott Center with the crowd size limited by the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-21 season.

“I was telling ‘P’ (Paolo) I got to play here and it was fun, but it was a limited crowd,” Suggs said. “This is crazy. The energy they bring, how loud it gets when they’re going on runs, it’s definitely something I wish I could have been part of.

“The energy in a college game is different (than the NBA), but regardless it’s a good environment, too.”

Suggs said he’s been impressed by several of his former teammates, including Timme, Strawther and Anton Watson.

“The (Cougars) started keying in on Drew, obviously rightfully so, and it opens up a few things for everybody else,” said Suggs, who was a guest recently on Timme’s podcast. “Julian is playing great. He had a couple of open looks (in the first half) he didn’t knock down, but overall both are having great seasons. I keep in touch with them and I love to see them hoop.”

Timme finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of assists on Watson baskets.

“Absolutely,” Suggs responded when asked if Timme is an NBA player. “He’ll be up there next year. I’ll see him soon.”

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