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Thank you, Jalen

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The Zags’ point guard was one of a kind

UCLA v Gonzaga Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Jalen Suggs is a unique player in the history of Gonzaga basketball. There has only been one previous “one-and-done” player in the program’s history, and with all due respect to Zach Collins, no prospect has been as hyped as Suggs. Not only is it inevitable that Jalen will leave for the NBA, it is a legitimate possibility that he will be taken with the first pick in the draft. When you look back at the history of Gonzaga basketball, Suggs is a mark in time for how far the program has come.

Suggs’ status as a top prospect and highly rated recruit has meant a lot for the progression of this program. As Gonzaga has grown from a Cinderella to a regional powerhouse to a national championship contender, the talent with which Mark Few and his staff build their teams has evolved. Jalen Suggs represents the “final form”, if you will, of that evolution. For every Hunter Sallis and Chet Holmgren that commits to or even considers Gonzaga, we can look back to Suggs as the player who set that precedent.

We can talk all day about what Suggs’ prospect status means for this program, but it was his play on the court that really left its mark. When we reminisce on the 2020-21 season, one play will always stand out among the rest. His game winner against UCLA in the Final Four is up there with Casey Calvary as the biggest shots in Zags history, and is rightfully the highlight of his time in Spokane. However, we all know that Jalen Suggs’ contributions on the court were much more than a single shot.

The anticipation and hype that came with Suggs once he committed to Gonzaga built up all the way to the Zags’ first game of the season against Kansas, and his debut certainly lived up to its billing. Less than a minute into his first collegiate game, Jalen showed everyone in Zag Nation who he was with an emphatic dunk off a lob from Joel Ayayi for his first collegiate points.

Suggs finished his first game as a Bulldog with 24 points, 8 assists and 2 steals, and just a single turnover. 40 minutes into his collegiate career, Jalen Suggs showed why he is a star in the making.

It seemed like every game, Suggs did something that made me audibly gasp. His skillset is so broad, and while his athleticism is great, his basketball acumen and on-court awareness allowed him to pull off highlight reel plays like this:

this:

and, of course, this:

Suggs’ next-level athleticism and overall basketball talent made him must see TV during his time at GU, but it was his competitive drive and hustle that endeared him to teammates and fans alike. Jalen’s two-sport prowess in high school has been well documented, and his football mentality was on display throughout the season. Even in the final minutes of the National Championship game, when it would have been easy for a player, especially one of Suggs’ caliber, to mail it in, he continued to give his all and attempt to will the Zags back into the game. Jalen had done all he could for this squad up to that point, but those final minutes, including the shots of him breaking down in tears on the sideline, showcased to everyone how much he wanted to win, not just for himself, but for his teammates and everyone associated with Gonzaga basketball.

Jalen Suggs is a likely top-five pick in the upcoming NBA draft, and has a long professional career ahead of him. He has been hyped as a top professional prospect, at times in two sports, ever since his high school days in Minnesota. But for one year, he was the starting point guard for the Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s basketball team, and in that one season, he ingratiated himself to everyone in Zag Nation, not least the guy writing this story. For all the great moments that Suggs provided, however, one will always stand out, and I will leave you with it one more time:

Thank you Jalen, we here at Slipper Still Fits and throughout Zag Nation wish you nothing but the best.