Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Jalen Suggs, Chet Holmgren should consider going straight preps-to-pros due to Covid-19 pandemic, AAU coach says
By ADAM ZAGORIAJalen Suggs is signed to play for Gonzaga University this coming season.
Chet Holmgren is poised to announce his college list on Friday.
But the AAU coach for both star players believes they have to consider going straight from the preps to the pros given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think that Chet, Jalen and every kid in their position has to consider going pro,” Brian Sandifer, director of the Minnesota-based Grassroots Sizzle program, said in a phone interview. “That has to be an option for them. And thank God they have that option because [of] the uncertainty of when campuses are going to open up.”
Suggs, a 6-foot-5 combo guard from Minnehaha Academy who is also a star quarterback in football, committed to Gonzaga in January, choosing them over Florida, Florida State, Iowa State and Minnesota.
Now ranked No. 6 in ESPN’s Top-100 list in the Class of 2020, Suggs became the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with the Zags when he did so in April.
“We are very excited to have Jalen join the program,” Zags coach Mark Few said when he signed. “He has a really bright future, and I look forward to working with him. It has been great getting to know his family through the process.”
Still, Sandifer said that because of the uncertainty surrounding college sports opening back up, Suggs should still consider going to the NBA G League or another pro option for the upcoming season. Suggs is projected as the No. 18 pick in the 2021 Draft, per ESPN.com.
“You have to consider it,” Sandifer said. “Not saying he’s going to do it but you have to consider it just because of the fact, Suggs is going to Gonzaga to play in the atmosphere when they recruited him. It was Saint Mary’s and it was standing-room only and the crowd was going nuts. That’s why he’s going there.”
Now, of course, it’s unclear if fans will even be allowed to attend college football and basketball games. Villanova coach Jay Wright recently said, “I can’t see, right now, having fans [this upcoming season].”
Wright also said teams had to be prepared to start the college basketball season with conference play only in January.
“Put it this way,” Sandifer said. “People are asking if the G League is going to play. How is the G League going to play if LeBron and them [in the NBA] have to go to Orlando to play.”
As for the 7-1 Holmgren also out of Minnehaha Academy, he is the No. 1 player in the ESPN 2021 100 and is due to announce his top seven schools later this week. Minnesota, Gonzaga, Memphis, North Carolina, Georgetown, Michigan and Ohio State are expected to be in the mix.
While Holmgren wouldn’t go to college until the summer of 2021, when presumably there will be a vaccine for the virus, Sandifer said he, too, should consider going pro instead of college.
“To be honest with you, Chet obviously can go anywhere he wants,” Sandifer said. “He has no clear-cut favorite but when you look at what’s going on right now, just me personally if things work out with the G League or even if they don’t, I mean for a guy like Chet at the end of the day if he goes to a college he’s doing the college a favor more than they’re doing him a favor.
“If he doesn’t go to college, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to anybody, you know what I mean. Until we get a vaccine, there’s not going to be Cameron Crazies running around in a stadium no more. So for a kid to say he’s going to college and have a normal college experience, it’s not going to happen.”
Sandifer said all the top players in Holmgren’s class have to consider going pro instead of college, even though there is also uncertainty around all levels of basketball at this point.
“I think it’s an option for sure,” he said. “I just think that it’s interesting to me that what the time frame for us to get a vaccine is going to be. I think they’re going to get one but I think a lot of kids that are in Chet’s class, like Jaden Hardy, Patrick Baldwin, and guys in his class that are ranked real high that are draft-level kids. They’re doing a university a total favor by showing up on their campus.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.