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It was tough for Jalen Suggs to choose basketball over football


Jalen Suggs was the first athlete in Minnesota history to be named Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball in the same year, so choosing a sport to pursue in college was difficult.

He made the right choice.

The 6-foot-5 guard is expected to finish in the top five in the NBA draft after a stellar new season at Gonzaga. Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists and hit one of the most memorable shots in Final Four history, A buzzer-beating 3-pointer against UCLA Which sent Gonzaga to the national championship game. The Zags lost to Baylor in the title game.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.” Suggs said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “It was time for me to make the best decisions for myself, for my family, for my future, with some close family, close friends, coaches, and finally, with my dad.”

Suggs played quarterback and defensive roles at Minneapolis Academy at Minneapolis, leading the private Christian school to a state championship as a junior. He said he has received scholarship offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Georgia and Alabama.

“He certainly would have been a Power Five quarterback,” said Minnehaha football coach Chris Goodwin. “I know he really thought about it and it surprised some people because he’s so specialized in basketball. I think he made the right decision.”

Gonzaga had no football team since 1941, so there was no temptation for the Suggs to turn into a basketball powerhouse.

“I didn’t have any distractions,” he said. “I didn’t have to move past the football facility and it was watching me every day because I know that if I did, I would take the stadium left or right and I would go in and do something on the football team. Wouldn’t take it back either. My experience at Gonzaga was second to none. It was amazing and I enjoyed it.”

Suggs often resembles the quarterback on the basketball court. He displays his passing skills with perfect accuracy, finding open lanes and delivering the ball.

“I think the biggest thing that crossed out was his vision and awareness,” Goodwin said. “He knew where all the wide receivers were. He could see them even while scrambling and that was his great ability. He’s so elusive. No one can catch him. He runs around and feels you.” That he was going to score a good run and then he would stop and hit a guy 20 yards away. It was jaw-dropping. He made plays I had never seen before.”

Suggs wasn’t running over the edge to avoid a hit, either. Plus, he was so physical in security that Goodwin said he’s considering posting a highlight tape of his greatest hits before the NBA draft.

“One of the things that has been underestimated about him is that he is a very disciplined football player,” Goodwin said. “He’s not a prima donna quarterback. He loves to hit. He’s had some big hits that are freaking people out. He was a true double threat and he wasn’t afraid to run up to people.”

Suggs developed his toughness as a youth while playing with older children. He remembers taking two crushing hits as a second-grader while playing against a sixth-grader.

“I clearly remember an under-center, play action,” he said. “I’m sitting there ready to sit back and one of the hardest hitters, one of our league’s biggest friends, indiscriminately killed me. And I remember lying on the ground crying. They came and picked me up Brought it off the field.”

The second shot was from a good friend of his

“He promised me he wouldn’t drive me,” Suggs said. “He said he would either harsh me or kick me out of bounds. But he mistook me for one of my teammates and he made me run all the way. I remember lying on my back. I couldn’t feel my left hand. But yeah, I’ve always played.”

Suggs won’t have to worry about blindside blitzes or bone-crushing tackles on the basketball court.

In the draft, the Pistons are the No. 1 pick behind the Rockets, Cavaliers, Raptors and Magic. The general consensus has been that the No. 1 pick will be either another done-up college player – Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, Southern California center Evan Mosley or the Suggs – or someone from the G-League development program such as guard Jalen Greene or forward Jonathan Kuminga. .

“Just trying to be humble and focus on getting better every day right now,” Suggs said. “I’m not looking too far ahead or getting caught up in the future. I’m trying to control what I can and enjoy the whole process and make it happen.”

When the Suggs are headed to the NBA, their high school teammate Chet Holmgren is following in Gonzaga’s footsteps. Holmgren, a 7-foot-1 center with guard skills, was the nation’s top recruit. He is already projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Suggs surprised Holmgren last month with the news that he was voted the 2020-21 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

“It was special to be able to be a part of that moment with him,” Suggs said. “It was great because we’ve come so close. He’s my little big brother and I know how hard he’s worked to stay in the position he’s in now. I couldn’t be more proud .

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