Minnesota’s own Jalen Suggs has played basketball across the country and around the world up to this point during his illustrious career. Even so, he has two premieres this week.
He flew with the team for the first time in a private jet to Gonzaga’s season opener in Florida.
« It’s hard to describe what emotions I’m feeling right now, » Suggs said. « I’m excited. «
The bright lights shine on No.. 1-rank Zags and their top-class newbie guard when he made his debut against No. . 6 Kansas at Fort Meyers Tip-Off.
Leading up to the biggest game of his career to date, Suggs spoke in a Q&A with the Star Tribune on a range of topics, from his key role with the Zags to his national title hopes and thoughts on the NBA and The Rise of Former High School Teammate Chet Holmgren to the star.
A: [Soon] I’ll be serious and be locked up. But I was excited and scared just thinking about the game, the games and things like that. At the end of the day, when Thanksgiving comes and it’s time to warm up and prepare to play, I’ll have the same attitude I’ve always had: it’s just a basketball game. I’ve been playing basketball for a while. I’ll go out and have fun and play to the best of my ability.
Q: You always seemed to do your best in the big high school games. Does this type of matchup help take your game to the next level?
A: Yes. I think that’s only part of my competitiveness and my competitive spirit. It’s something I’ve had since I was a little kid. When the stage is big and the opponent is bigger, I’ll be ready to go out and play. Just to make a statement. On this stage, which is my first college basketball game on Thanksgiving just before the Dallas Cowboys game, I don’t think it can get much bigger. Unless you are talking about championships. I am happy and excited. Kansas has a great team. You have some great players. First, you talk about her [Pre-Season All-America Guard] Marcus Garrett. I’m really looking forward to getting started and just playing basketball. It’s been a while.
A: Corey has been really helpful since I’ve been here. He’s just a really smart basketball player. He’s been in the system for three years now and is going on to his fourth. He really helped me learn the offense, learn little tidbits and tricks on how to carry out the offense to find ways to score within the system. … He’s a great leader. He definitely knows when he is serious about everyone and when to calm it down to make it fun. When we laugh, have fun and smile on the court, we are playing our best basketball. He deserves all of the preseason awards he has received so far. He’s a great player.
Q: How can you focus on your academic year if you are already listed as a lottery choice on the 2021 NBA draft bill?
A: I worked on just being present. Being present in that moment and I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I’ve had much clearer thoughts since I did this. I’ve focused a lot more on what we’re doing here. And I think the biggest key for me is just playing basketball and having fun with it. It’s not a job yet. In college, I’ll enjoy my time here, study, and become a better basketball player and person. God willing, if I get the chance [to play in the NBA] it will be great. Of course, it’s great to be mentioned early by all names now. But right now I’m mentally here at Gonzaga University ready to do whatever I can to bring this school a national championship.
Q: This year was unlike any other with the pandemic. How did you deal with it?
A: It was definitely different. This college basketball season is like no other. It’s extremely unique. But one thing we’ve really done is come together as a team. There won’t be much going out and hanging out with a few other people throughout the season. We have to be safe and take precautions. Nobody wants to miss games and we don’t want to have to cancel [the season]. We will not complain. There are a lot worse than missing basketball games. People lose loved ones, jobs and things like that. We are grateful in these times that we can go out there and play in front of the nation. Although [friends, family and fans] won’t be there in person, they will still be watching. We are locked in and remain focused in the present and in any situation that comes our way.
Q: How proud you are of what your former Minnehaha Academy teammate Chet Holmgren did to become the No.. To become 1. 1-tier senior recruit in high school?
A: It was amazing to see how far he came. I’ve been there since day 1 when he went to the gym in his khaki shorts, very lanky and very awkward. It was great to see his progress on and off the pitch. It was great to see him be the No.. 1 got. 1 position. But he really matured out of place. One of the things I’m most proud of this year is that he’s leading the way with young people. Everyone looks up to him, not just in the team but also in the country. I think he does a great job with his voice and the platform he has. He has a huge following. He always speaks his mind correctly. And he’s become a much better leader on the team that leads these guys, keeps them focused and on track. Seeing his growth was great. The rest of the guys play great basketball. I put all of their games on ESPN. If not, I’ll check it out on FaceTime. As for Chet, I’m very proud of him and happy. I can’t wait to see what his future holds. He is special.
Marcus Fuller reports on Gophers Men’s Basketball and College Basketball for the Star Tribune. He has 13 years of experience in Twin Cities College and professional sports.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Men’s Basketball, College Basketball, Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball, NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, West Coast Conference
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