Holmgren makes larger-than-life return to Minnehaha Academy as his NBA stock soars

A crowded Minneapolis gym buzzed last Friday, when the 7-1 man of the hour walked the baseline during a battle between the state's top two girls Class 2A basketball teams.

Even with the intense battle on the court between Providence Academy and Minnehaha Academy, heads turned away from the game action and phones popped out. Everything Chet Holmgren does turns into fire these days on social media.

Holmgren's presence in the basketball world continues to soar with the Oklahoma City Thunder as he chases No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama from San Antonio for NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

Minnehaha Academy retired Holmgren's No. 34 jersey that night on the same court where his high school hoops journey started. Thunder teammates joined his friends and family for the ceremony, creating even more excitement in the packed crowd.

Holmgren's humility rose above the hype, though. He made the honor more about his circle than himself.

"Just having everybody there who kind of helped me make that happen is the more important part than my jersey getting put on the wall," Holmgren told the Star Tribune. "It was a very special moment."

Not long ago, nobody talked as much about Holmgren being the next big thing. Rare during an age where ballers younger than middle school go viral. His father, Dave, documents almost everything now with his own camcorder, but he wouldn't say Friday if his son belongs among the best the state has ever produced. Seems obvious. Haha.

"We're just taking it one day and game at a time," said the ex-Gophers center. "And we'll see where it goes."

Upcoming Minnesota talent can learn from Holmgren's rise from raw high school talent to one of the top young players in the NBA.

"Hopefully, I've inspired the next generation of athletes in Minnesota to chase their dreams and show them it's possible," he said. "Also help give them the blueprint. I feel like every single day I showed up and did things the right way to put in maximum effort. When you do that, good things can come."

Stacking countless hours and days of workouts in empty Twin Cities gyms with little to no fanfare, Holmgren and Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs now both have their high school jerseys retired (Suggs' No. 1 last February) at Minnehaha Academy. They played one another in the NBA for the first time in Oklahoma City's 112-100 win against Orlando on Jan. 13, swapping pro jerseys after the game.

They always focused on the present while pursuing their NBA dreams together, Holmgren said.

"It really taught me to stay in the moment and worry about what you need to do now to get what you want later," Holmgren said. "If I was worried about getting my jersey retired, it never would've happened."

Holmgren was named Gatorade national player of the year as a high school senior in 2021. He followed that up to earn All-America honors at Gonzaga his freshman year. He surely wasn't the underdog anymore, but the mentality to prove himself from earlier in his basketball life remained.

With an incredible wingspan, shot-blocking prowess and guard-like skills as a 7-footer, Holmgren became the highest drafted Minnesotan ever with OKC's No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

Still, critics claimed Holmgren was too thin to make a significant impact in the pros. And he wasn't able to play his first year after suffering a foot injury before the 2022-23 season. The recovery process motivated Holmgren and prepared him even more to become an NBA All-Star candidate this year.

Through Wednesday, Holmgren was averaging 17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.6 blocks and was shooting 38.2% from three-point range. His best all-around game so far came in mid-November against the Golden State Warriors, when he joined Michael Jordan as the only rookies in NBA history with at least 35 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, a block and two threes in a game.

How far can Holmgren take his game and his Oklahoma City team this season?

After celebrating his jersey retirement last week, he lifted the Thunder over the Timberwolves 102-97 at Target Center on Saturday. Holmgren had 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks, helping to hold Karl-Anthony Towns to 19 points the game before the Wolves star exploded for a franchise-record 62.

"It's extremely special to play in the NBA," Holmgren said. "To be able to do it with a group of guys like we have is huge. It makes it more fun to be able to go out there and know every single one of those guys has your back. With how hard they work and how talented they are, I feel like we can make great things happen this year."


Five Minnesota ballers who stood out:

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

Ok, the Wolves did lose the game Monday to lowly Charlotte. But Towns' franchise-record 62 points was a historic night in so many ways. He also became the first NBA player to record 10-plus threes, 10-plus twos and 10-plus free throws in a game.

Ari Gooch, Park Center

The senior guard scored 29 points for the Pirates in a win against Eau Claire Memorial last week in the Minnesota vs. Wisconsin Breakdown Border Battle series. It was his second 25-point or more effort in three games.

Mallory Heyer, Gophers

The sophomore from Chaska had 18 points and 15 rebounds in the Gophers' 69-50 win last Saturday against Michigan State. She's the first Big Ten player since 2009 to have two games with at least 15 rebounds and five made threes in a season.

Chloe Johnson, Duluth Marshall

She became the third girls player in state history to reach 1,000 career points by the eighth grade after scoring 45 points in a loss to Minnehaha Academy. She's averaging 27 points as a middle-schooler, but her story overcoming off-the-court challenges is what's really inspiring.

Paige Bueckers, UConn

The junior from Hopkins received a scare early in the first quarter Tuesday against Marquette when her bumped her twice-repaired knee, but she returned to lead the Huskies to their 13th consecutive victory with 26 points.


10,013 Announced attendance at the Gophers-Wisconsin men's basketball game Tuesday at Williams Arena, the largest home crowd so far this season.

3,000 Career points milestone reached by Gophers recruit Isaac Asuma in Monday's win against North Woods. He also moved 23 spots up to No. 98 in the Class of 2024 rankings this week by 247Sports.

24 Consecutive wins for Class 4A No. 1 team Wayzata before an 80-69 loss against Hopkins on Tuesday. The defending state champions hadn't lost a game in almost a year.

16 Straight wins for Minnesota State Mankato before an 81-71 loss at Minot State last week, dropping the Mavericks to No. 5 in the NCAA Division II rankings. MSU Moorhead (17-1) is No. 3 nationally.

2 Number of Minnesota schools in the Division III national junior college men's rankings top 10 entering this week with Rainy River (No. 4) in International Falls and Riverland Community College (No. 7) in Austin.

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Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on Don't be a stranger on X after reading — chatting about these stories makes them even more fun to share. Thanks, Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller on X).