The NBA Draft gave Minnesota basketball a chance to show off its impressive depth of talent in recent years.
Nine Minnesotans have been drafted since 2015, including six in the past two years. Several players from the land of 10,000 ballers got to hear their names called Thursday night draft for the third year in a row.
Seven-footer Chet Holmgren could not only become the highest-drafted Minnesotan of all time, but he could also reunite with former high school teammate Jalen Suggs, if the Orlando Magic select Holmgren with the first overall pick.
Suggs, who played at Minnehaha Academy and Gonzaga as Holmgren, was picked No. 5 by Orlando in the 2021 NBA draft, which also included former Cristo Rey and Texas big man Jericho Sims.
“The list is quite long at this point of great basketball players who have come out of Minnesota,” Holmgren said. “It’s great to see Minnesota represented so well. So I want to keep going.”
Holmgren is joined this year by Baylor’s Kendall Brown and Colorado State’s David Roddy as locals appearing on countless fictional drafts.
The Suggs-Holmgren duo were widely known on the Twin Cities hoops scene long before winning state titles at Minnehaha Academy and dominating the AAU national circuit with Grassroots Sizzle.
“I’m a super competitive person and would do anything to win while I’m playing,” Suggs said last year. “Chet developed that mindset as we grew together and played.”
Brown and Roddy did much of their development in NBA prospects away from the spotlight.
After his sophomore year at East Ridge, Brown left his home state to attend Sunrise Christian Academy. After two seasons at prep school in Wichita, Kansas, he became a McDonald’s All-America and came to Baylor as one of the top freshmen in college hoops.
“My teammates at East Ridge, I loved those guys,” Brown said earlier. “These are relationships I will always have. But I had to think about myself and what was going to help me take it to the next level.”
Brown’s draft projections range from as high as a lottery pick to possibly advancing to the second round. But his high-level athleticism, defensive potential and versatility at 6-7 make him seemingly a lock to be drafted.
“I would best describe my game as a point forward,” Brown told the media at the NBA draft in Chicago last month. “I have a very high IQ. I am able to make plays with the ball. I am an excellent cutter. So I also don’t need the ball in my hands to make plays. It would help me to fit me into an NBA team right away.”
Roddy seemed even further off the NBA radar two years ago, but his productive career at Colorado State was hard for scouts to ignore. The former Breck standout rocketed into the national spotlight after being named Mountain West Player of the Year and leading the Rams to their first NCAA Tournament since 2013.
Roddy also increased his stock in the NBA Draft. The pre-draft buzz was so encouraging for the 6-foot-6, 255-pound mighty Roddy that he made the surprising decision to forfeit his college eligibility.
“I think my versatility and my physicality are two things that everyone sees in me,” Roddy told the combine. “Tearing down all three, keeping multiple positions. Making the right play with the ball in my hands and without. There are some key things needed in the NBA. And I get that.”
This year’s NBA Draft workouts have included other Minnesotans, including Duke’s Theo John (Chammplin Park) and Both Gach (Austin) of Utah. Former Gophers guard Payton Willis also worked for several NBA teams.
For the second year in a row, the Gophers are unlikely to have a player drafted. But former All-America Daniel Oturu broke the program’s 16-year drought in 2020 when he joined three other Minnesotans (Zeke Nnaji, Tyrell Terry and Tre Jones) under draft.
A year ago, ex-Prior Lake star Dawson Garcia went through the draft process before returning to school and moving from Marquette to North Carolina. The gifted 6-11-year-old forward was traded home to play for the Gophers and is on the fictitious 2023 draft boards.
Roddy probably would have been a solid prospect for next year, but he chose not to wait to pursue his NBA dreams. Along with Brown and Holmgren, he’ll have the opportunity to keep the draft Minnesotans trending stronger Thursday night.
“It will be a dream come true,” Roddy said if he is drafted. “All the hard work I’ve put in, and my family around me, supports me. It’s just going to be an amazing feeling.”