Holmgren made his announcement on SportsCenter.
“The process was hard,” Holmgren told ESPN. “I had a lot to learn on the go. I had to lean on others and get their advice. My dad went through it, and coach Larry Suggs with Jalen. I kept getting consistent advice that I will get a feeling when I know. Not to overanalyze everything because everything sounds good. Nobody sells their weakness.
“It was [Gonzaga’s] consistent approach, how versatile they are on the court and their offensive style. They take their talent and tweak their system based on their personnel. They know how to put it all together.”
Coach Mark Few and the Zags were considered the heavy favorites for Holmgren if he chose to go to college, but going the G League route was also an option. Other schools involved included Ohio State, Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota, Memphis and Georgetown.
“He’s a super honest stand-up guy,” Holmgren said of Few. “He is a fan of the game, and I hear he is a good fisherman, too. He continues to learn about the game and loves what he is doing.”
A center from Minnehaha Academy (Minnesota), Holmgren took official visits to Ohio State and Gonzaga before the coronavirus pandemic essentially shut down in-person recruiting. He also went on unofficial trips to Minnesota, Maryland and Georgetown. His dad, Dave Holmgren, played basketball at Minnesota.
Chet Holmgren is close friends with and a former high school and AAU teammate of Jalen Suggs, who just finished a stellar freshman season at Gonzaga and is a projected top-5 pick in this summer’s NBA draft.
“He had a lot of influence,” he said of Suggs. “He is someone I know and trust. We had a lot of casual conversations. He is both a friend and teammate. I could hear it firsthand from him. I would watch him play and watch how the team plays. Then we would talk. It’s a culture where everyone comes willing to work.”
Holmgren had a dominant senior year for Minnehaha this past season, averaging 20.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.7 blocks while shooting 80% from the field. Minnehaha won its fourth straight state championship earlier this month, with Holmgren going for 18 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in an 80-29 victory in the Class AAA championship game.
Holmgren is one of the most unique prospects in the game. He is the greatest mismatch in high school and will be in the college game, too, because of his 3-point shooting ability, inside game and physical measurables. At 7-foot-1 with an enormous wingspan, Holmgren is a world-class shot-blocker with exceptional instincts to protect the rim. Offensively, he displays uncommon versatility with his scoring prowess, ballhandling and lob-catching ability. His movements are fluid and mobile, showing great coordination and secure hands. He plays with an edge, and his play has been compared to that of Kristaps Porzingis of the Dallas Mavericks.
“[The plan is to] listen and learn and to earn everything I get,” Holmgren said. “I will be able to use my versatility on both ends. Push it off the glass and go. I can take advantage of a switch on offense and switch on defense when needed.”
Holmgren is the second five-star recruit to join Gonzaga’s class in the past few weeks, following No. 3-ranked point guard Hunter Sallis, who committed in late March. ESPN 100 power forward Kaden Perry is also entering the fold next season, while ESPN 100 forward Ben Gregg graduated high school early and enrolled for the second half of this past season. Rounding out the group is Fanbo Zeng, the No. 33-ranked prospect in the 2022 class who reclassified into 2021 before returning to China to finish his high school career. Zeng is expected to enroll at Gonzaga this summer.
Suggs became the highest-ranked recruit in program history when he signed last spring, but Holmgren now takes that honor; he is the first No. 1-ranked prospect to commit to Gonzaga.
It’s another step forward in the Zags’ emergence as a true power over the past two decades. Gonzaga fell one game short of making college basketball history earlier this month, losing in the national championship game to Baylor, the Bulldogs’ first defeat of the season. It was the second time in five seasons they had reached the national title game.
Few’s program has won at least 30 games in five straight seasons and has the nation’s longest streak of Sweet 16 appearances, last getting knocked out in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in 2014.
Gonzaga opened the offseason as the No. 1 team in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25.