When Jalen Suggs puts on his Team USA uniform during the start of the U17 World Cup team training camp Friday in Colorado Springs he’ll be representing the state of hockey.
Suggs says Minnesota should be the state of hoops now, too.
The 6-foot-5 junior Minnehaha Academy point guard will be looking for his second stint with the national team for his age group. Suggs was on the gold medal team at the U16 FIBA Americas in Argentina in 2017.
It's been a strong run in recent years for Minnesota ballers with Team USA from Tyus Jones, Gary Trent Jr. and Tre Jones to now Suggs and others.
“It’s good more and more players are putting Minnesota on the map and getting recognized,” Suggs said before leaving Thursday for tryouts. “A lot of people around the country don’t really believe that we’re much of a basketball state."
Hopkins 6-10 forward Zeke Nnaji joins Suggs in camp Friday through Monday in Colorado. The 12-member team is selected to compete June 26-July 8 in the FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina. Rochester John Marshall forward Matthew Hurt already made the U18 squad. He's currently shining with a 4-0 U.S. team favored to win gold in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in St. Catharines, Canada.
"To be honest, I think we can hang with any of the other states across the country,” Suggs said about Minnesota's high school basketball talent.
Throughout his youth basketball career, Suggs has done more than just hang with his peers. Proof of his status as one of the elite in his 2020 class came in Argentina two summers ago. He was a starter and major contributor alongside young stars like Jalen Green, Scottie Barnes, Vernon Carey and James Wiseman to help the U16 team go 5-0 after beating Canada in the FIBA Americas championship.
Suggs is excited to get another chance to compete to represent his country in international play.
“The first time was just so surreal playing with them,” he said. “Everyone made everybody else better. Nobody really cared about who scored this many points or that many points. We all just wanted to win a gold medal. That’s what we did. We came out played great team defense and offense and got the job done. It was a lot of fun playing with those guys. It was a great learning experience.”
The recruiting process is even more intense this summer for Suggs, who recently competed in a football camp at Ohio State. The four-star quarterback prospect has scholarship offers in both football and basketball from schools like Ohio State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State.
"I loved it," Suggs said about the Buckeyes camp experience. "Working with (Co-Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach Ryan) Day, talking with Coach (Urban) Meyer. Just being in that environment was a real fun time."
Suggs is hoping to get offers this summer from blue-blood schools Kentucky, Kansas and Duke. Currently, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State and West Virginia are among the schools recruiting him the hardest.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino will watch Hurt play for Team USA during Friday's medal round in St. Catharines, Canada. Pitino and his assistants have made Suggs their No. 1 priority in the junior class.
“It means a lot," Suggs said of the Gophers' high interest. "This is my hometown and where I was born and raised. This is where all my family is for the most part. Pretty much everyone is here. I grew up watching Minnesota. I’ve been to a couple games. A lot of my family are big fans of the Gophers. They’ve definitely in the past (month) made it a priority in recruiting the younger guys (offers include his Grassroots Sizzle AAU teammate and 2020 forward Dain Dainja, East Ridge's Ben Carlson and Prior Lake's Dawson Garcia), especially in the hometown. I love to see the guys here with offers."
-- Hurt scored 19 points in Team USA's 132-55 win Thursday against Ecaudor in the quarterfinals in Canada. He's third on the team in scoring (12.8) and rebounding (5.3) and first in blocks (six) after four games.