Jalen Suggs wasn’t expected to still be available with the No. 5 pick, but the Orlando Magic were thrilled to draft him there on Thursday night. Suggs, who entered the 2021 NBA Draft after a stellar freshman season at Gonzaga, was equally happy to be headed to Orlando.
Shortly after getting drafted, Suggs tweeted out a highlight video with the words “Hebrews 11:1.” That verse says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
In his lone season at Gonzaga, Suggs led the Bulldogs to an undefeated regular season and a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament, punctuated by a half-court buzzer beater to beat UCLA in overtime in the Final Four.
He was a consensus second-team All-American, first-team All-West Coast Conference and was the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year. In high school, he was the first athlete to win Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football in the state of Minnesota.
In Orlando, Suggs will team up with former Michigan forward Moritz Wagner, whom the Magic drafted with the No. 8 pick Thursday.
“The sky’s the limit,” Suggs told ABC about the potential in Orlando. “I go in there with a great group of guys, good people, excellent guard class that we have there. Couple that down there with my guy Mo (Wagner) down in the post, it’s scary.”
Because of his football talent, Suggs was faced with a difficult decision coming out of high school to pursue basketball or football. Part of the reason he chose Gonzaga was because it’s primarily a basketball school with no big-time football program in the shadow.
“I had to go ahead to Gonzaga so I had no distractions,” he said this month on the Faith on the Field Podcast. “I didn’t have to walk past the football facility and have them looking at me every day. Because I know that if I did, I would have taken that left or right into the stadium and I would have gone and done something with the football team. But I wouldn’t take anything back though. My experience I had at Gonzaga was second to none. It was amazing and I enjoyed it.”
Suggs ended up putting together one of the best seasons for a freshman in Gonzaga history and helped lead the Bulldogs to the best season in their storied history — just one win away from becoming the first undefeated national champion since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. His Gonzaga teammate, Corey Kispert, was drafted at No. 15 by the Washington Wizards.
But this season was not easy, even if the record suggested it, Suggs said. Between dealing with the pandemic, procedures, protocols, then playing the NCAA Tournament in isolation and living in a bubble for three weeks, it was hard. His family and friends were there in Indianapolis, but he couldn’t see them because of the protocols in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
His relationship with God is what helped get him through it all, he said on the podcast.
“I think just being faithful, being confident and strong-minded and being rooted into being myself and my relationship with God helped me through all of it,” he said. “Again, it was a challenging year. I’d be the first one to say it, and I went through many ups and downs but my relationship with God got me through it honestly. … Being able to live out that moment and, again, cross out and experience one of those things that you dream about and not a lot of people get to do, it was a good reminder of how good and really great God is.”