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Gonzaga Basketball

Former Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs surrounded by mentors during valuable stay at USA Olympic training camp

Jalen Suggs, of the Orlando Magic, gestures during a game on March 19. Suggs just completed his third NBA season.  (Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Jalen Suggs must have felt the last two chapters of his basketball career fusing together as the 23-year-old guard went through shooting drills and a light workout after the second day of Olympic training camp finished up on UNLV’s campus.

Standing on the periphery was Mark Few, the man who recruited Suggs to Gonzaga in 2020 before leaning heavily on the combo guard to help guide the Bulldogs on a historic run to the 2021 national championship game.

In the foreground, leading Suggs through various dribbling and shooting drills was Jamahl Mosley, the third-year Orlando Magic coach who’s been equally fortunate to have the guard’s versatility at his disposal – particularly during a breakthrough 2023-24 season for the Eastern Conference franchise and its former fifth overall pick.

Suggs spent four days in Las Vegas after accepting an invitation from the USA Select Team that was strategically assembled to help the star-studded Olympic national team gear up for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

Suggs’ basketball mentors were present in different capacities – Few as one of three assistants on Steve Kerr’s Olympic staff and Mosley as the head coach of the Select team comprising promising young NBA players, G-League players and one incoming college freshman, Duke signee Cooper Flagg.

The group provided different looks and tested the Olympic team during shortened scrimmage periods near the end of practice each of the first three days, but Suggs didn’t participate in the live sessions and instead became an extension of Mosley’s coaching staff, sitting alongside them on the bench and listening in during timeouts.

“He’s done a great job of communicating with the guys as we’re putting in sets downstairs,” Mosley said of Suggs’ involvement at training camp. “He’s communicating what he sees, how teams are playing him, but just being around this group of players, this caliber of player, understanding where his confidence level goes, knowing that he belongs to be a part of this group.”

Suggs’ absence from scrimmages wasn’t related to a physical setback – he still went through shooting and dribbling drills at half-speed on Sunday – and Few suggested the decision was a precautionary measure. Suggs is in the middle of contract negotiations, and the third-year player is expected to sign a long-term extension with the Magic at some point this summer.

“His contract thing will get worked out,” Few said. “You can’t be playing if you don’t have a contract.”

Suggs had to catch a flight immediately after Monday’s practice in Las Vegas and wasn’t made available to reporters during his stay at training camp. The Select Team was excused on Monday and didn’t attend Tuesday’s session when the Olympic team held a walk-through ahead of Wednesday’s exhibition game against Canada at T-Mobile Arena.

It took Suggs the better part of three years to find his footing in the NBA after the usually durable guard was limited to 101 games during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons while dealing with a variety of injuries.

Advanced statistics considered Suggs one of the least efficient offensive players during a rookie season during which he shot 36% from the field and 21% from the 3-point line and averaged 3.0 turnovers per game.

Suggs has straightened those numbers out, shooting 47% from the field and 39% from the 3-point line last season, and he became a key asset for the Magic on the other end of the floor, earning All-NBA Second Team defensive honors in 2023-24.

With Suggs as a defensive anchor and former No. 1 draft pick Paolo Banchero, a Seattle native and one-time Gonzaga recruit, pacing Orlando’s offense, the Magic won 47 games during the regular season and earned the fifth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

Mosley, who was hired by the Magic roughly one month after the team used its first-round draft pick on Suggs, wasn’t surprised to see the guard turn things around – in a major way, no less – during his third NBA Season.

“I think he just stepped into each of the moments he was given and I think that’s what he’s continued to do,” Mosley said. “No matter what responsibility is put on his plate he steps into it knowing what he’s capable of doing because of the work he’s put in.”

Suggs and Few shared the floor for the first time since Gonzaga’s loss to Baylor in the national title game. Representing USA Basketball in different capacities this week in Vegas, the two shared a long hug when Sunday’s practice concluded. Few exchanged pleasantries with other players and coaches before walking over to monitor Suggs’ workout with Mosley and Select Team forward Langston Galloway for approximately 10 minutes.

When Monday’s scrimmage concluded, the GU coach and his former player met at midcourt for another embrace, then posed for a photo and talked for roughly five minutes before Suggs left the facility to catch his flight.

“I had a great couple days with Jalen,” Few said. “It’s unfortunate, he was dying to play. I was hoping he’d play, just to be able to get to watch him live. I haven’t had that opportunity in awhile, but Jamahl’s the coach of the Select Team and they love him in Orlando.”