College Basketball

Chet Holmgren's commitment proves Gonzaga isn't regrouping – it's reloading

April 19

Thought Gonzaga was going away after losing to Baylor in the national championship game?

Think again.

If anything, the Bulldogs are raising their game to another level, at least when it comes to recruiting, and the latest evidence of that came Monday, when the little school from Spokane, Washington, landed the nation’s top recruit, Chet Holmgren.

Holmgren is an agile and skilled 7-footer who considers himself position-less. He has a deft handle, is crafty around the basket and possesses 3-point shooting range.

He displayed some of that skill at a basketball camp in 2019, when he gained a level of viral fame by crossing over Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry.

Holmgren, who is rated the nation's top recruit by ESPN, 247sports and Rivals, was named a McDonald’s All American in February and hails from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, the school that produced Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs, one of this past season's freshman phenoms.

Suggs declared Monday that he would enter the NBA draft this summer – Jason McIntyre projected him as the No. 1 selection in his latest mock draft – and he appears to have been in attendance for Holmgren’s announcement Monday.

Holmgren averaged 21.0 points and 12.3 rebounds during his senior season, when he led Minnehaha to the Minnesota Class 3A state championship. He had 28 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in the title game.

College basketball recruiting analyst Brandon Jenkins of 247sports called Holmgren a unique prospect and a defensive game-changer.

"Even though his defense is ahead of his offense," Jenkins wrote, "he has elite ball skills on the perimeter, as he can handle and shoot the basketball like a combo guard."

Holmgren isn’t the only big fish landed by Gonzaga this month, either. It was just a few days ago that the Bulldogs announced the signing of Hunter Sallis, a 6-foot-4 guard from Omaha, Nebraska.

Sallis averaged 22.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists while leading Millard North High School to a state championship.

"Hunter is a great person that comes from a great family," Few said in a statement. "He is a high-character individual with a bright future. We're looking forward to having him on our team and in our Zag family."

Like Holmgren, Sallis was named a McDonald’s All American, making this the first time Gonzaga has landed two such players from the same class.

This influx of prep stars could help the Zags weather the expected loss of several players from this season's roster. In addition to Suggs, senior forward Corey Kispert will be departing, and redshirt junior guard Joel Ayayi has also declared for the draft.

Big man Drew Timme, the team's top scorer, might also opt to test professional waters.

When considering Gonzaga’s rising impact on the recruiting scene, it’s interesting to point to a comment Holmgren made about his own development in a 2019 article in Bleacher Report.

"I was a project, but people were willing to take time with me," he said. "They turned a pile of bricks into a house. Actually, I wasn't even a pile of bricks – I was whatever you make bricks out of."

In a way, Holmgren’s development mirrors the rise of Gonzaga. Once known for little more than producing Hall of Famer John Stockton in the 1980s, the Zags began a slow rise to prominence under coach Mark Few.

First Few built his program with "whatever you make bricks out of" in Washington kids such as Dan Dickau and Adam Morrison. Then came the foundation with a pipeline of international bricks such as Ronny Turiaf, Kelly Olynyk, Przemek Karnowski, Rui Hachimura and Ayayi.

Gradually, the All-Americans – Zach Collins and Suggs – started showing up.

Now Few has not one but two McDonald’s All Americans, including the No. 1 recruit in the nation, headed to Spokane.

That increasing impact on the national recruiting scene has not gone unnoticed.

"I do not believe this is the end for Gonzaga," Colin Cowherd proclaimed the day after the Zags lost to Baylor. "Jalen Suggs is their first superstar recruit. I actually believe they’re in, like, the fifth, the sixth inning of this program. They have turned into the later innings. But Mark Few is in great shape. He’s got another 10-12 years to coach. And finally, they now get Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse one-and-done recruits."

The Zags didn’t go home to lick their wounds after losing the championship game. Instead, Few went home and got to work.

With two new stars coming into the program, the Bulldogs aren't regrouping. They're simply reloading.

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