One of these days, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are going to cut down the final nets of the NCAA season. The college basketball futures say that very well could be next year when the Bulldogs will have the services of Chet Holmgren, the top high school recruit from the Class of ‘21.
Close, but no cigar was once again the title for Gonzaga’s season-in-review highlight film, after the Bulldogs saw their undefeated season end with a loss to the Baylor Bears in the NCAA Men’s Championship Game. Mark Few had an amazing collection of talent at his disposal, and he’s hopeful that another influx of talent headed by Holmgren will deliver Gonzaga’s long-awaited first title.
Many sportsbooks installed the Bulldogs as the team to beat in 2021-22 almost before Scott Drew and his Baylor bunch had a chance to cut down the nets in Indianapolis in early-April. Holmgren’s recent commitment to ply his college trade in Spokane only deepened the chalk, which has the Bulldogs in the +500 to +900 range and ahead of others like Michigan, UCLA and Villanova, that trio running around +1200.
One Minnehaha Star Departs, Another Arrives
Landing Holmgren’s services also served to deepen Mark Few’s status as not only a great coach when it comes to X’s and O’s, but also his ability to recruit the nation’s top players to come play for a school that few people had even heard of just a quarter-century ago. Few has proven he can play the transfer portal game, along with the ability to land one-&-done’s with the likes of the big-time programs headed up by Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari.
In Holmgren, Few is getting a 7-footer that just might possess the best overall skillset ever for a high schooler his size. Holmgren comes out of Minnehaha Academy where he starred for coach Larry Suggs’ Red Hawks in another title season for the prep school, scoring nearly 21 PPG while yanking down 12.6 rebounds and blocking 4.7 a contest. If the coach’s name sounds familiar, Larry is the father of Jalen Suggs, who also starred at Minnehaha and just completed his one-&-done tutelage under Few at Gonzaga.
The only negative any scout can find with Holmgren at this time is the fact he’s a beanpole, failing to crack 200 on the scales. That will most certainly change once he gets on the weights at Gonzaga and begins to bulk up.
Zags Aplenty In NBA Draft
It’s not just freshman Jalen Suggs leaving a Gonzaga team that was favored on college basketball odds boards in all 32 games this past season, and carried double-digit spreads in 26 of those. The 6-4 guard declared for the NBA Draft and should be the first of several players from last year’s Gonzaga team taken, many projecting Suggs as a top-3 pick.
Corey Kispert decided to forego the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is offering all players, and has also declared for the NBA Draft. The 6-7 forward is seen as a mid-to-late pick in the first round after ranking second on the Bulldogs in scoring with an 18.6 PPG average, and hitting on a ridiculous 44% from 3-point range, top 20 among players with 100+ attempts.
Joel Ayayi, a 6-5 junior who was fourth on the team in scoring (12.0), is also leaving with NBA scouts listing him as a 2nd-rounder. Two more names could join that trio, Drew Timme and Aaron Cook. Timme led Gonzaga in scoring (19.0) and rebounding (7.0), and is projected by some as a pick late in the second round if the junior decides to leave. Cook isn’t on NBA Draft boards now, but the consensus is he will depart and possibly try his luck on the European circuit.
Holmgren Will Have More Frosh Stars Around Him
Most feel that despite being the nation’s top recruit, Holmgren won’t go the one-&-done route like his former prep teammate Jalen Suggs. For starters, he’s got some muscle to gain on that frame before taking his game to the professional level.
Holmgren’s commitment elevated Few’s recruiting class to No. 2 in the nation, and a lot will be expected from the 7-footer. At least he’ll have some fellow newcomers to help relieve some of that pressure as Hunter Pallis and Kaden Perry will also be new faces on the floor. Pallis was listed as the No. 7 recruit in the Class of ’21, a 6-5 guard from Nebraska who rates as a 5-star addition; Perry is a 6-8 forward from Seattle and drew a 4-star score as the No. 52 overall prospect.
While the spotlight will be on Holmgren, there’s still plenty of talent – along with a patient coach like Few – around him. The ingredients are certainly there for Gonzaga to be another popular college basketball pick next season… that is, if you’re into laying heavy chalk.