Jalen Suggs held the title for about a year. Hunter Sallis held it for less than a month.
Now it belongs to Chet Holmgren.
Holmgren, No. 1 in the 2021 class according to 247sports composite rankings, announced his commitment to the Gonzaga men’s basketball team live on ESPN on Monday. He becomes the highest-ranked recruit in program history and those that come to GU after the 7-foot-1 forward can only share the title with him.
“Next fall, I will be a Gonzaga Bulldog,” said Holmgren, who unzipped his jacket to reveal a Gonzaga shirt with images of him wearing a No. 34 uniform.
It marks yet another milestone for the Zags, who are making a habit of landing five-star recruits.
Suggs, who played with Holmgren at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis and for the Grassroots Sizzle AAU program, was 11th in 247sports’ composite rankings when he committed and 10th in the final rankings for the 2020 class. Sallis, a 6-foot-5 guard from Omaha, Nebraska, who committed to GU on March 26th, is sixth in the 2021 rankings. The composite rankings are a combination of 247sports, ESPN and Rivals ratings.
“Mark Few (Gonzaga coach) had a great pitch for me, come in and be willing to learn and be willing to work hard,” said Holmgren, who has signed a letter of intent. “They’re going to use me to my advantages and to my skill set and put me in positions to be successful and the team to be successful as well.”
Holmgren, who was surrounded by family and a few hundred students during his announcement at Minnehaha Academy’s gymnasium, is a unique prospect.
ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi called the 195-pound Holmgren a “world class shot-blocker.” Grassroots Sizzle director Brian Sandifer, calls Holmgren “Big Guard.” Holmgren is a presence inside, but he’s also capable of handling the ball and operating on the perimeter.
“There’s a lot of room to grow in Chet’s game, which is why think he’s going to be so good,” Minnehaha coach Lance Johnson said. “It really comes down to the strength and conditioning factor. Colleges can do a lot better job than we did, but he worked his butt off during the COVID pandemic and put on 15 pounds. It made a huge difference in his game offensively.”
A 2019 video of Holmgren went viral when he used a pair of behind-the-back dribbles to cross up Golden Star star Steph Curry before finishing with a two-handed dunk during a pick-up game at Curry’s SC30 Select Camp.
“Larry (Suggs, Jalen’s father) always coached Chet as a guard,” Sandifer said. “His dad (Dave) was a 7-footer at Minnesota so we knew Chet was going to be tall. In sixth grade, he was 6-5. In eighth or ninth grade, he’s 6-9 and still had guard skills.
“He’s a unicorn. There’s never been anybody that big that plays like that and also be a total rim protector. When he crossed over Curry, you’ve never seen a 7-footer do that.”
Holmgren averaged nearly 21 points while shooting 80% from the field in his senior season. He blocked 4.7 shots per game.
“Being able to speak with somebody that I’ve known so long and trust was definitely a big part of it,” Holmgren said of his conversations with Suggs. “But also the way I see myself fitting in, not only with (Gonzaga’s) coaches, the players, the system and the school, but being able to look back and have people with skill sets similar to mine and how they use them and how they adjust every single year to the different skill seats they have on the team and make it work. It was a pretty hard offer not to take up on.”
Holmgren and many of the top-rated recruits are on the NBA G League’s radar with its pro pathway program, where it’s possible to earn up to $500,000 playing for the G League Ignite.
Holmgren has consistently said he wanted to play college basketball. Asked Monday if his decision was official or if he was considering the G League, Holmgren said, “This is official.”
Gonzaga figures to have numerous lineup options next season, depending on what happens with the rest of the roster. Forward Drew Timme and guard Andrew Nembhard have yet to announce their intentions, but if they return it’s easy to picture them with Holmgren and Sallis in the starting unit.
Holmgren’s perimeter ability seemingly matches up well with Timme, who does most of his damage closer to the basket.
“Chet is going to be a great addition to our program, and all of us are looking forward to getting to work with him and starting the next step in his career,” Few said. “He is a big-time winner, comes from a great family, and will be a great teammate.”
Holmgren’s commitment moved Gonzaga from seventh to second behind Michigan in 247sports’ 2021 team rankings. Holmgren and Sallis are joined by Kaden Perry, a 6-9 forward from Battle Ground (Washington) High in GU’s incoming class. Forward Fenbo Zang is reportedly considering reclassifying to the 2021 class.
Holmgren is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft by NBAdraftroom.com. The Website compared him to “Dirk (Nowitzki) lite, Marcus Camby on D.” Sallis, by the way, is projected at No. 14.
Gonzaga and Duke, with Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, are the only programs with two top-10 recruits in the 2021 class.