The No. 1 player in high school basketball, Chet Holmgren, was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year and beat out players like Jaden Hardy, Jabari Smith Jr. and Patrick Baldwin Jr. for the top honor on Wednesday.
Holmgren is a 7-foot-1 center who averaged 20.6 points, 12.6 rebounds. 5.2 blocks and 4.5 assists per game for Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis and won three state championships during his high school career.
He now joins the ranks of players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Bradley Beal, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons who have all won the prestigious award in the past. His former teammate and projected top-five draft pick, Jalen Suggs, surprised Holmgren with the award over a Zoom conference call.
“I was definitely surprised. To be able to see Jalen pop up on the screen and have a few words for me was definitely very cool,” Holmgren told Yahoo Sports. “This award is right up there [with the top] because it not only recognizes my on-the-court accomplishments, but also my off-the-court stuff with just helping out my community and pushing myself in the classroom.”
“Being able to give him this award and be a part of that moment with him is an honor and I was extremely happy and excited that I was able to do that,” Suggs added. “There’s nobody more deserving of this award than him and I’m super proud of him.”
Holmgren and Suggs have grown up together and started playing on the same team in fifth grade. Both players have risen to the top of the sport and gone through all the challenges and pressure together. Holmgren was there for Suggs this season when Gonzaga lost in the national championship game to Baylor and Suggs was there to give encouraging words to Holmgren when he went head-to-head with one of the top players in the country, Emomi Bates, on national television.
“There was talk like, ‘Is this tall, skinny guy really No. 1?’ and stuff like that and I just told him, ‘Go prove it to everybody.’ You yourself know it, I know it, now just go prove it to the rest of the world,” Suggs said.
Holmgren did just that and was the best player on the court, finishing with 31 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks in a win over Bates’ YPSI Prep (Michigan). He is now the consensus No. 1 high school basketball player heading into college and chose Gonzaga over Georgetown, Memphis, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State. Holmgren followed Suggs to Gonzaga and head coach Mark Few now has the No. 4 recruiting class coming in next year led by Holmgren, Hunter Sallis, Nolan Hickman and Kaden Perry.
“We’re all excited, we’re all ready to get in there and get to work. We have some unfinished business from last year, and we’re excited to make some noise this year,” Holmgren said.
Holmgren will no doubt be the player to watch next season for NBA teams and is the projected No. 1 pick for the 2022 NBA draft. He is the best shot-blocker in America with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and handles the ball extremely well for his size in the open court.
“There’s not going to be a lot of guys as long as him at the college level, so I’m just excited to go up against him every day in practice and it’s definitely going to help me and my game,” future teammate Hunter Sallis told Yahoo Sports.
Gonzaga, once again, has high expectations coming in next season. The game of the year will take place on Nov. 26 when Gonzaga squares off with Duke in Las Vegas against the No. 2 recruit in the nation, Paolo Banchero.
“I’m looking forward to that game a lot. As a competitor, you want to play against the best competition you can. It’s not only Paolo but the entire Duke team, they’re right there at the top,” Holmgren said. “It should be a great challenge and a great game.”
There’s never been a player like Holmgren in high school basketball. College fans will get a treat watching him play one year at Gonzaga before he most likely heads to the NBA and winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year is just the beginning for the rising star out of Minnesota.
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