Jalen Suggs had a lot of eyes on him before his freshman season even started. He’s met all expectations while picking up more than a couple awards along the way. His talent was well known before joining the Zags, but he is giving a lot of credit to his coach and teammates for his success.
“There’s not enough good things I can say about Coach,” Suggs said about Mark Few. “He’s helped me grow on and off the court. He’s like family to me. ... I really couldn’t see myself in any other program with any other coaching staff.”
Suggs received the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year honor, which was no surprise since he was named Freshman of the Week 10 times during the regular season. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals during WCC play.
The All-American candidate is one of three Gonzaga players on the Naismith Trophy Midseason List and the Wooden Award Late Season List. Suggs is also a finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award.
But Suggs is more interested in talking about team achievements than his own.
“I’m not one that is too into personal accolades,” he said. “It feels good at the end of the day; it’s a great honor but my focus has always been and is still on the game, the team and getting that championship.”
Suggs, the No. 6 prospect in ESPN’s Class of 2020 rankings, is the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with Gonzaga. The Minneapolis native chose the Zags over schools like Baylor, Iowa, Florida State and Minnesota.
Even though the Bulldogs are still undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation, Suggs said the pandemic has made his first college basketball season difficult. One of the biggest lessons he’s had to learn is how to handle challenging situations while staying positive.
Suggs said Few is a competitor and pushes his players to get “1% better everyday.”
For him personally, the longtime coach has helped Suggs take more control of the game by encouraging him to play at his own pace and not just react to what the defense is doing.
Suggs said he is his own biggest critic, but is grateful to have teammates to go to whenever he needs a pick-me-up or motivation. Senior Corey Kispert is one of the guys he has learned from.
Suggs said Kispert is “always steady” and helps keep the team together and on the same page.
“Being a young guy coming into this program, one that he’s been in for almost four years now, I’m able to learn from him,” Suggs said, “Learn the little tricks in the offense, things that the coaches want to see and ways to just win when we go out there.”
When asked about his relationship with Suggs and how Suggs learns from the elder Bulldogs, Kispert said he felt it was mutual because he has learned just much from his young teammate.
Suggs said the team as a whole gets along very well on and off the court, and that a big part of their success is that they enjoy working and practicing together. The point guard said he always looks forward to Competition Mondays and that he is proud to say he is undefeated in those scrimmages. Kispert teased him about this.
“Not so sure about that,” the senior said. “I think I have a pretty good track record in Competition Mondays as well. I’ll have to talk to him about that privately, make sure we get that straightened out.”
Suggs said he and his teammates do a lot of trash talking when they play against each other — all in good fun. When they are facing other teams, he said it is all about playing selflessly and giving 100% for each other, the coaching staff and the fans.
“I don’t think you can play in this program and the way we play without being selfless and without trust,” Suggs said. “We’re a tight unit of brothers. Not teammates, not friends, but brothers.”