Jalen Suggs is a high school athlete with appealing college options. Lots of them.
The Minnehaha Academy junior is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and top point guards. He is being recruited by the bluest of blue-blood programs in both sports.
He holds football scholarship offers from Ohio State and Georgia, and basketball offers from Kansas and Gonzaga. He has taken football recruiting visits to Alabama and Notre Dame and communicates regularly with Duke’s basketball coaches.
The general assumption is that Suggs faces a dilemma in choosing a sport for college. Football or basketball. Either or.
Why choose? Why not play both?
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Suggs said.
He says he’s seriously considering it, knowing a football/basketball double-double is rare at the highest collegiate level. There have been a few previous examples, but playing any Division I sport has become a year-round commitment.
Not just a physical grind. But mentally, emotionally and academically as well. Multiplying that would be draining for an individual.
One other factor: Suggs’ basketball career is following a one-and-done trajectory. He looks like a future NBA player. By playing basketball only, he likely can become a millionaire when he’s 18 or 19 years old. That’s hard to ignore.
But he loves football. A lot. And he’s an exceptional athlete who’d relish the challenge of showing he can play both sports on a big stage.
“I know I’ll come to the right decision,” he said.
Rivals.com ranks Suggs as the seventh-best dual-threat quarterback nationally in the Class of 2020. ESPN.com ranks him the 10th-best basketball player overall in the junior class.
Suggs’ father, Larry, said a number of schools have offered to let his son play both sports. It’s one of the first questions recruiters ask him. Football or basketball? Or both?
Suggs has a close relationship with both P.J. Fleck and Richard Pitino. He talks to both weekly. No doubt the two Gophers coaches have an arrangement in mind if they were to hit the jackpot.
Basketball has long been viewed as Suggs’ ticket. Top football programs aren’t backing away though. If anything, his recruitment in that sport is gaining steam. Nick Saban doesn’t recruit players just for giggles.
Asked if he has a favorite sport, Suggs smiled.
“I can’t give you an answer to that one,” he said.
Football obviously poses greater risks to health, so in terms of self-preservation basketball gets another check beside it.
“He’s always gotten hurt in basketball,” his dad noted. “He’s never gotten hurt in football.”
Suggs dismissed the injury factor, too.
“Getting hurt can happen anywhere,” he said. “Playing basketball, playing football, walking out of my house and step in a hole. That doesn’t cross my mind.”
At 6-4, 195 pounds, Suggs is so smooth and skilled on a basketball court that he dominates in a way that almost looks effortless. Same thing in football.
He turned the Class 4A Prep Bowl this season into a personal highlight film. He threw three touchdown passes, rushed for 67 yards (including a 23-yard touchdown run), and intercepted two passes (returning one 97 yards for a touchdown) in carrying SMB to its first state championship.
SMB is a football co-op between St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake. Combine 100 schools and you might not find one athlete like Suggs, who celebrated a title he aimed for since taking over as the Wolfpack’s starting QB as a freshman.
“Running around with my [football] brothers on that stage in that stadium with all our fans in the stands, there was truly nothing like it,” Suggs said.
That’s the tug of football on him. The team aspect. The Friday Night Lights grandeur. The hard work required in putting it all together.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Why are you still playing?’ ” he said.
His answer is perfect: “For the love of the game.”
Watching him play both sports in college would be fascinating. He’s gifted enough athletically to accomplish it. But there are financial factors to consider. The allure of an NBA career accelerated by the one-and-done rule will weigh heavily in his deliberations.
He has no bad options.
“Ultimately my end goal is to play the game professionally, whether it be football or basketball,” he said. “That’s been my goal since I was a kid. I’m taking steps daily to become better on the court and off the court as a man. I know that will guide me to the right direction.”