Chris Goodwin was thinking about tweeting out a highlight tape of Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, though not the one you would think.
“He took that knee to the chest last night, right?” said Goodwin, Suggs high school football coach. “That was a hard hit. I didn’t think it was that bad when I saw it, then I saw a replay.”
The play in question was a mere footnote to Suggs’ historic and jaw-dropping game-winning shot against UCLA Saturday in a national semifinal. But it showed the measure of the man. In the second half, Suggs plowed through a couple of defenders on his way to the basket. He came out of the contact wincing and clutching at his torso on his way back on defense.
Goodwin has seen some form of all of it in football over the last four years at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis.
“You know what?” Goodwin said after seeing Suggs come through in the clutch once again. “I might put together a highlight film of his big hits. There’s some good ones where he just knocks guys out.”
On the surface, there appears to be a vast difference between delivering hits in high school football and thrusting a dagger into the NCAA Tournament hopes of the Bruins on the way to the national championship game. But maybe there isn’t.
There is something layered and amazing to be said regarding Minnesota’s first-ever Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football. In the history of the NCAA Tournament, Suggs will always be remembered for taking three dribbles in a 90-90 game in overtime and calmly nailing a 3-pointer to make history and send Gonzaga into Monday’s national championship game.
All of it could have been better. That is, if you consider playing quarterback for Alabama or Georgia to be better. Those were among the big-name football suitors who saw something great in the 6-foot-5, 200-pound prospect.
“When the game was on the line his focus was sharper,” Goodwin recalled. “He’s the opposite of most people. You know, like you and me.”
That’s what separates good from great. That’s what elevates a high school quarterback who was the best player in the state while making 32 tackles on defense and returning a couple of Pick Sixes. That version of Suggs considered playing both sports in college just like John Elway, Deion Sanders and Jameis Winston.
Then he chose to play basketball at a small Catholic Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington, that hasn’t sponsored football since 1941. Now he is a household name.
“Last night I was just watching the game,” Goodwin said. “He runs down there and tosses it in for the win and I’m like, ‘Seems about right. Seen it before.’ “
In the minutes following one of the shiniest moments in NCAA Tournament history, Gonzaga’s point guard couldn’t resist a football comparison.
“I’ve always said a football game section championship against Benilde-St. Margaret’s my senior year was my greatest sports moment I’ve been a part of,” Suggs said. “[This] skyrockets above that.”
Suggs’ buzzer-beating, overtime 33-footer to beat UCLA skyrockets above most anything in this or any other tournament. The shot will echo throughout the basketball ages.
But what could have been? That’s what a significant portion of college football was thinking.
“He was as big as it gets,” 247Sports Midwest recruiting expert Allen Trieu said.
So why didn’t we hear more about this 6-foot-5, 200-pound football prospect? While being a two-sport star, Suggs never ruled football out entirely. But he also didn’t have a private coach, and didn’t go to many camps. So it was always assumed Suggs was concentrating on basketball. Just not stated.
“Never really declared one way or another,” Trieu said. “I think he had football in the back of his mind. Every time I talked to him he said, ‘I’m still thinking about football. I’m still considering basketball.’
“As the process went on I did less and less with him. The opportunity to be a 19-year old millionaire was going to be too hard to pass up.”
And that basically was that. Suggs has all but assured himself as a lottery pick, perhaps being the No. 1 pick overall.
But the kid could always play football. Suggs was the No. 15 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2020. Pro Football Focus thought enough of him to post his high school highlight package. Admit it, there is a lot of Patrick Mahomes in there.
As a senior Suggs averaged almost a first down per rush (9.8 yards) while slinging all over the lot. The year before Minnehaha won the state championship with Suggs leading the way.
“In the state semifinals we needed to score a touchdown to win,” Goodwin recalled. “He throws this ball rolling to his right. He just snaps off a 15-yard comeback. Right on the money, down and away.”
That was all while the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self were inquiring about his services. In football, Suggs was reportedly offered by Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Georgia and Alabama. Nick Saban told reporters he “vaguely” recalled Suggs.
That recollection can be forgiven. If you don’t go to football camps, you’re forgotten. The general recruiting consensus on Suggs was that he had four-star talent but when he didn’t declare a preference until late his profile faded.
“He’s a really good basketball player too, so I can’t argue with anybody about the choice that he made in terms of what he’s known [about his] future and how he’s trying to build a career in athletics,” Saban said.
In football, Suggs was playing four grades ahead (second grader playing with sixth graders) according to his father. Two-time Super Bowl winner Terrell Suggs is second cousin to his dad Larry. In basketball, you don’t have to be told he has a complete game. Suggs is first on the Zags in steals and blocks, third in scoring and fourth in rebounds. If he hadn’t made the game-winning shot, Suggs would have still been remembered for his late-game block of UCLA forward Cody Riley’s dunk attempt. It triggered a fast break the other way.
Most of all, Jalen Suggs makes you forget he’s going to be one-and-done. He has stamped his label on the tournament forever.
“Stuff like this is something you dream up as a kid and you practice on a mini hoop,” Suggs said. “But it was a great shot. Crazy shot. It was special.”
For Chris Goodwin, he is used to seeing special every day.
“None of us were very surprised,” he said after texting his staff Saturday night. “A lot of ‘Wows!’, but also like, ‘Yep, here we go.’ ”
Published: 2021-04-05 02:44:36
Tags: #Gonzagas #Jalen #Suggs #March #Madness #legend #top #high #school #QBs #nation