Jalen Suggs credits friend, 'GOAT' Paige Bueckers for help in Final Four run

Before they were basketball stars, Jalen Suggs and Paige Bueckers were friends.

The basketball phenoms made headlines together as highly-touted high school recruits in Minnesota, but were friends in grade school long before the accolades poured in.

Now they're sharing FaceTime calls and text message between star turns in Final Four runs.

On Monday, it was Suggs' turn to watch. And Bueckers put on a show as she led the top-seeded UConn Huskies to a 10-point rally past Baylor to secure a spot in next weekend's Final Four.

On Tuesday it was Suggs' turn to play. And like Bueckers, he starred in a Final Four-clinching victory, falling just short of a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a romp over USC. Also like Bueckers, his team will be favored to cut down the nets next week when Gonzaga plays for its first national championship.

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1), Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (3) celebrate during the championship game of the men's West Coast Conference basketball tournament between the BYU Cougars and the Gonzaga Bulldogs on March 9, 2021, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jalen Suggs and the Bulldogs are two wins away from Gonzaga's first champinoship. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Suggs: 'She's the GOAT for a reason'

After Gonzaga's win, Suggs talked with reporters about his nerves — while watching Bueckers.

"Of course. I was extremely nervous all game," Suggs said of watching UConn's nail-biter on Monday. "I was pacing back and forth. I couldn't sit down."

He said that he and Bueckers connected after UConn's win — and that she talked him through some things that helped him on the court on Tuesday.

"I texted her after, and we FaceTimed and talked for a little bit," Suggs continued. "Last night, she said some things that really helped me. I've been kind of struggling, trying to get my footing in these tournament games.

"Of course, seeing her go out there and play great like she did and then talking afterwards, she kind of said some words, it kind of got me uplifted. It got me going. Definitely helped tonight. ... She's the GOAT for a reason."

Paige Bueckers #5 of the UConn Huskies celebrates her three point basket in the first quarter against the Baylor Lady Bears during the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 29, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Paige Bueckers led UConn to another Final Four run. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Whatever happens next weekend, both players are pegged for stardom at the next level. Suggs will likely leave Gonzaga after a single season as a projected NBA lottery pick. Bueckers, per league rules, will have to wait until she's 22 to join the WNBA. But she'll likely be the No. 1 pick when she does

And there's a more than decent chance that both friends turn pro as national champions.

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