Gonzaga freshman and 2021 No. 1-ranked recruit Chet Holmgren could stand to gain a little weight, from the looks of his slender frame. But that hasn’t stopped him from terrorizing opponents on the hardwood prior to his arrival in Spokane. The most touted freshman in the country displayed his bag of skills against Central Michigan on Monday night, scoring 19 points.
Chet is averaging about 13 points, 7 rebounds, four assists and 3 blocks as he familiarizes himself with the national stage. The latest skyscraper in Washington is easily one of the most unique and mystifying basketball products to ever grace the college scene
Standing 7-0 and a razor-thin 190 pounds, Holmgren is a member of the new age “pace and space” big men. He has guard-like skills, with enough wingspan and athleticism to still protect the rim. Some believe he’s got generational talent with the long-term tools he possesses, but that remains to be seen. One thing for sure is the kid’s uber-talented, and NBA executives are supposedly salivating.
Huge group of NBA executives here in T-Mobile to see Chet Holmgren and Gonzaga. Holmgren’s skill level at his size really stands out. Knocking down step back 3s with ease in warmups. Impressive footwork and handle. Here’s a slow motion look at his shooting mechanics. pic.twitter.com/Z2TvGjWcC6
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) November 23, 2021
Holmgren Highly Sought After: Can He Meet Expectations?
Holmgren dominated the high school circuit the last four years at Minnehana Academy in Minnesota, winning four state championships alongside some really talented teammates. Players like Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, No. 5 Pick Orlando Magic) and son of rap mogul Percy Miller, aka Master P, Hercy Miller (Tennessee State) played with Holmgren. But fans packed arenas nightly to see the 7-foot unicorn dominate on both ends.
He compiled 30 Division 1 offers from the likes of UNC, Zaga, Kansas, Michigan, Memphis and a host of other power five schools. Holmgrem chose Gonzaga like his former high school teammate Suggs did in 2020.
The opportunity to team with junior Drew Timme had to play a role in his decision as well as how the Zags and Mark Few have developed skilled players with high basketball IQ. Wizards forward Rui Hachimura comes to mind, as does Pacers do-it-all hybrid big man Domantas Sabonis.
While lighting up Cameron Indoor Stadium, Laettner led a legendary Duke squad to two national championships, won Final Four MOP, and multiple player of the year awards. Laettner’s claim to fame at the pro level was one All-Star appearance, and being chosen as the only college member of the original 1992 USA Dream Team.
Gone are the days of top talents staying in school longer than a year, so scrap the possibility of Holmgren equaling Laettner’s collegiate body of work. But Holmgren is under more scrutiny and pressure to perform than Laettner was. Social media adds another animal that players of past eras didn’t have to feed. The Zags are under pressure to win it all after being blown out in last year’s title game by a bully from Waco, Texas, in the Baylor Bears.
Can Holmgren Lead Gonzaga To Its First National Championship?
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have played in two national championship games since 2017, losing both.
In those losses it was obvious that they lacked an athletic big capable of running the floor, protecting the rim and making long-range shots. Holmgren can do all of that. His defensive ability is ahead of his offensive ability at this stage of his career, but he’s a more than capable ballhandler and scorer. Gonzaga coach Mark Few hopes this is the piece that brings that elusive title to Spokane.
NBA Projection For Holmgren: No. 1 or No. 2?
In the latest mock drafts some have Holmgren going either No. 1 or No. 2 overall. His unique skill set (rim protection, perimeter ability at 7 feet) are things that will should translate well to today’s NBA. The one question mark will continue to be his frail frame. He’s the complete opposite of Zion Williamson, but both body types raise red flags for scouts and executives.
Learn more about projected #1 pick Chet Holmgren in our 2022 ESPN Mock Draft that debuted today. The 7-footer is one of the best rim protectors I've ever evaluated with a skill set built for the modern NBA. https://t.co/BqN7xrIXnq pic.twitter.com/PWtk6Is4Zq
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) December 29, 2020
Holmgren joined a program that plays an ultra-tough nonconference schedule. So how he fares against the elite competition on Gonzaga’s schedule will be vital. In a matchup against No. 5 Texas, Holmgren took a back seat to Timme, who put up a 37-piece with two sides.
Rejection. Coast to coast. And-1.
Chet Holmgren is unreal 🤯 pic.twitter.com/7fqm8yc02N
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 23, 2021
He’ll have plenty of opportunities to show out against top-level competition in the coming weeks, beginning with a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup against the UCLA Bruins.
For the sake of American basketball, it would be a change of pace if Holmgrem was actually “generational.” That’s a word that’s thrown around each season when a new crop of high school hotshots hits the scene.
Almost five decades later, and we are still referencing Larry Bird when discussing the greatest American-born white players in NBA history. With that in mind, White America is starving for a basketball hero, so everything Holmgrem does will be reported as if it’s never been done before. Luka Dončić, Joker, they aren’t from the United States. It’s different. So temper your enthusiasm, because the hype machine will be out in full effect
Chet Holmgren of @ZagMBB is the only Division I player in the last 25 years to…
-score 60+ points
-notch 15+ assists
-block 15+ shots
-shoot 70.0% from the field
-shoot 70.0% from the line
…over any 5-game span.
He's done that in the first 5 games of his career.
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) November 23, 2021
Great White Hype?
There have been a few very good white players in the NBA, but the closest thing the league currently has to a Caucasian U.S.-born NBA star is Tyler Herro. Following a few sensational games in the NBA Bubble, some fans and media attempted to elevate his standing and project his future.
Two seasons later and he’s not there yet.
But because he’s such an anomaly he gets celebrity props equivalent to some perennial All-Stars. There have been Billboard charting songs written about Herro, who believes he’s on the level of a Trae Young and Ja Morant. He’s even bought into the headlines.
As far as Top 10 talent goes, Larry Bird isn’t walking through that door. Chris Mullin isn’t even coming, so the future of the white American NBA player rests squarely on the shoulders of Holmgren. A unicorn in more ways than just ability.
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