When is the NBA Draft 2021?
NBA Draft 2021 presented by State Farm will be held on Thursday, July 29 at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN platforms will exclusively televise the NBA Draft for the 19th consecutive year and for the first time it will air on both ABC and ESPN. NBA.comNBA Draft 2021 to be held at Barclays Center on July 29
16 July, 2021 - 06:11pm
16 July, 2021 - 10:00am
Brian Sandifer, who would one day become Jalen Suggs’ coach with Minnesota’s AAU powerhouse Grassroots Sizzle, first met his future star when Suggs was 4 years old, too young to display his prodigious talents. That would come later.
He had to wait until Suggs was 5.
“That’s when I realized he was special. Five years old,” Sandifer said. “I had a tournament in this little church in St. Paul called St. Matthews. A little church on the west side, inner city down the street from his mom (Molly Manley) and dad (Larry) back then. I had a ninth-grade team about to play. We only had four kids show. I said ‘Larry, can Jalen play?’
“Back then, everybody and we were wearing the big shorts like Michigan. We had Boston Celtics uniforms like KG was wearing at that time. Jalen put them on. They covered his feet. His mom rolled them up about five times. He came out and played against ninth graders and competed as a 5-year-old. He is pulling 3-pointers from 2 feet behind the line.
“His dad still has video from that game right now. I told his dad, ‘He’s a pro.’”
In less than two weeks, Sandifer’s prediction will come true. Suggs is considered a sure top four pick in this month’s NBA Draft, a candidate to go as high as second to the Rockets after his sensational lone season at Gonzaga.
There might have been hints, even at age 5, that Suggs had those kinds of gifts, including the ability to launch deep 3s before peers could master bunny ears to tie shoes.
That would be apparent if that video becomes Suggs’ version of Tiger Woods at 2 years old on the Mike Douglas Show. Athletic ability ran in the family, to the point that it would not be a reach to think he would reach the highest levels of basketball, unless he was to get there in football first.
Yet, those that saw Suggs long display his talents — winning gold medals in the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, 2018 U17 World Cup and 2017 U16 FIBA Americas, becoming the only athlete honored as Minnesota’s Gatorade Player of the Year in basketball and football and weighing scholarship offers from the top programs in both sports as a 5-star prospect — don’t cite any specific skills as most remarkable.
“It’s just his innate competitive nature,” Lance Johnson, Suggs’ basketball coach at Minnehaha Academy, said. “He is always driven to win. I think you could see that with the Gonzaga team but I always tell people that’s one of his biggest assets. He just refuses to lose. And he’s won all his life.
“I mean, he’s won titles when he was a youngster at both basketball and football. He’s won all the way through high school. Then his first year as a collegiate player, he nearly wins a national championship. That’s pretty much typical of his life. He wins.”
Sandifer described Suggs as “ultra-competitive, ultra-competitive,” repeating the phrase because once would not be sufficient.
Competing is a family tradition. Terrell Suggs, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is a second cousin. His nickname, T-Sizzle, provided the name for the AAU team his father founded and Sandifer coached.
Former NBA All-Star Eddie Jones is a cousin. His cousin Rickey was the runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Minnesota in 1980, played in the CFL and according to Sandifer is “probably the greatest athlete that ever came from Minnesota without making it to the highest level. He’s 60 years old and can still dunk a basketball.
“His dad,” Sandifer said, “was Skip to my Lou (former Rockets guard Rafer Alston) before there was really a And1.”
Jalen Suggs would at times, Johnson said, show up and compete as a high jumper or triple jumper or as a soccer goalie. He was the 4A state champion quarterback as a junior, the runner-up as a senior. He was in sixth grade when he received his first basketball scholarship (from Wisconsin-Milwaukee,) seventh grade when he competed in the Under-Armor AAU circuit, eighth grade when he started for the Minnehaha varsity.
“We used to have Jalen as a sixth, seventh grader playing with all the kids that were going to go to college,” Sandifer said. “High school was the first time he played his own age group ever. He always played up. But nobody’s won more than him at every level. He was the MVP of everything he’s done.”
Suggs has said playing football helped develop the toughness he brings to basketball. Being able to shift sports, however, requires different abilities.
“He’s incredibly intelligent on and off the court,” Johnson said. “He is gifted mentally. You can diagram a play and he’ll have it locked in. He doesn’t need to run it 100 times before he knows it. When you’re on the court and in transition, knowing right when to pass the ball, knowing how to do the right thing at the right time.”
Johnson said he believes that will allow Suggs, 20, to quickly make the next transition, when he is a top five pick returning to his history competing against much older players.
There is increasing conjecture that after Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham becomes the first pick of the draft, the Rockets — barring a move in the draft — will choose between USC’s Evan Mobley and the G League Ignite’s Jalen Green.
At 6-4, Suggs is a bit undersized for a shooting guard but is more of a combo guard likely to play the point or at least handle a great deal of playmaking for an NBA team.
His shot at Gonzaga was streaky, making 33.7 percent of his 3s, but he often was charged with bailing out the offense late in the shot clock after he ran the offense to set up others. His decision making, helped him average 4.5 assists with 2.9 turnovers and is considered elite.
Sandifer said he and the family have not been given any indication about whether Suggs will be taken fourth by the Raptors or could move up. But neither do they care, believing that he would excel ahead of schedule, as he has so often before.
“Me and his dad say all the time we don’t care where he’s going to be drafted,” Sandifer said. “He just know he’s going to be ready. You can believe that.”
Feigen, who has won APSE, APME and United States Basketball Writers Association awards from El Campo to Houston, came to Texas in 1981 to cover the Rice Birds, was Sports Editor in Garland before moving to Dallas to cover everything from the final hurrah of the Southwest Conference to SMU after the death penalty.
After joining the Houston Chronicle in 1990, Feigen has covered the demise of the SWC, the rise of the Big 12 and the Rockets at their championship best.
16 July, 2021 - 09:34am
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