Gonzaga fell short of winning the NCAA Tournament when it lost in the title game to Baylor earlier this month, but the Zags may have taken a step Monday toward competing for next season’s championship by landing a commitment from Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the Class of 2021.
Holmgren, a center who led Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Academy to (another) state championship earlier this month, committed to the Zags over Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota, though Gonzaga has been trending as the favorite for months.
A unique, slender prospect who is listed at 190 pounds. Holmgren, the 2020-21 MaxPreps National Player of the Year, has a rare combination of size, shot-making, shot-blocking and handles that will allow him to be an instant impact player for Gonzaga, en route to likely becoming a one-and-done first-rounder in the 2022 NBA Draft. In November in a head-to-head battle against the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 recruiting class, Emoni Bates, Holmgren and his team got the win while he dropped 31 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks — a microcosm of the impact he’ll have at the college level on both ends.
Holmgren’s gifts are special in their own right but his competitive spirit and energy on the court add to the mystique of his impact. It fits a similar mindset of Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs, who, like Holmgren, hails from Minnesota and, like Holmgren, is well on his way to being a top-five NBA Draft pick.
The two are alike as trailblazers for Gonzaga, too. At the time Suggs committed to the Zags in 2020, he was the highest-rated recruit in program history. Now Holmgren with his commitment takes that mantle from fellow five-star recruit Hunter Sallis, who committed to the Bulldogs in March and snatched that distinction from Suggs.
“Standing 7-feet tall with phenomenal length, Holmgren is a true game changer on the defensive end with his rim protection,” 247Sports recruiting analyst Brandon Jenkins said of Holmgren earlier this year. “He is the best shot-blocker in the country and definitely the best shot-blocker I have seen in high school basketball. He impacts the game in so many areas and plays with a huge chip on his shoulder. Even though his defense is ahead of his offense, he has elite ball skills on the perimeter as he can handle and shoot the basketball like a combo guard. Holmgren has the potential to be a generational talent with his unreal long-term tools.”
Gonzaga is expected to lose a number of key players from last season’s 31-1 team but with Sallis and Holmgren in tow, odds from William Hill Sportsbook have the Bulldogs as the favorite to win the national championship in 2022 at +700 ahead of Michigan, Baylor and Villanova at +1200. Gonzaga was +800 prior to Holmgren’s announcement.
Holmgren’s commitment gives Gonzaga’s already loaded recruiting class a boost in the 247Sports Composite rankings where its’ 2021 recruiting class will move from No. 7 to No. 3.
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