Iowa Men's Basketball

Gonzaga freshman phenom Jalen Suggs was pursued by Iowa basketball and football

Suggs' Zags face Iowa Saturday in Sioux Falls

Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs (1) shoots around West Virginia's Emmitt Matthews Jr. (11) during the Zags' 87-82 win on Dec. 2 in
Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs (1) shoots around West Virginia’s Emmitt Matthews Jr. (11) during the Zags’ 87-82 win on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)

Gonzaga and Iowa. Two men’s basketball handfuls.

“They have a lot of really good players,” Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said Wednesday about the top-ranked Zags. “They have a post game with (Drew) Timme. They have depth. They have a tremendous point guard in Jalen Suggs. They have shooters. They have slashers.

“They’re veteran guys. They lose nothing when they go to the bench. They share it. They play it fast. They move it. There’s a reason why they’re ranked No. 1. ... So those guys are a handful.”

And the No. 3 Hawkeyes?

“They’re a handful,” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said on his radio show this week. “They are a handful.

“They would be a handful in a normal situation, but we’re basically coming off a 10-day layoff (because of COVID-19 issues) where we haven’t done anything. And oh by the way, you have to game-plan for the best offense in college basketball right now with some really unique entities to it.”

The two teams square off Saturday at 11:05 a.m. (CBS), at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“They have the same goals and plans that we have,” Iowa senior guard Jordan Bohannon said Wednesday. “There’s lots of similarities between our teams, and a lot of experience between both.

“I think it’s definitely going to be a little sneak peek of what a Final Four national-championship game could look like between us two, and hopefully we play up to our potential.”

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Iowa is 6-0. It has the nation’s leading scorer in Luka Garza (29.2 points per game) and is the top-scoring team (100.5 ppg).

The Zags haven’t played since Dec. 2, but sure looked good when they have competed. Their three wins were against ranked clubs Kansas and West Virginia, and Auburn. Gonzaga averaged 93 points against them.

Timme is a 6-foot-10 sophomore, Corey Kispert a 6-7 senior. They average 23.3 and 22.3 points, respectively.

Timme, McCaffery said, “runs like a guard. He’s 6-10, but he handles the ball really well.” Kispert is a wing with a great shooting stroke considered by many to be a potential 2021 first-round NBA draft pick.

Joel Ayayi, a 6-5 guard from France, averages 13.7 points. Guard Andrew Nembhard averaged 11.2 points for Florida last season and has averaged slightly above that this season.

Then there’s Suggs, who averages 13.3 points and 6.3 assists. He’s a 6-4 freshman from St. Paul, Minn., the highest-ranked recruit Gonzaga has ever signed. McCaffery offered Suggs a scholarship when the player was a ninth-grader.

Also offering Suggs a scholarship was Iowa’s football program, along with those from Ohio State, Iowa State, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Suggs was Minnesota’s high school Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball in his senior year, and was a 4-star prospect as a quarterback.

“Just a ridiculous athlete,” said Iowa guard Connor McCaffery.

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Suggs is projected to be a high NBA lottery pick next spring, maybe a contender to be the first pick.

“He would have been a lottery pick last year if he could have come out of high school,” Fran McCaffery said.

“It’s a complete skill set, that’s what it is. He can penetrate, get in the lane, find his teammates. He can play fast, he can play slow. He defends, he rebounds. He can shoot it.

“But he’s really, really special at delivering the ball at the absolute perfect time, which is a gift. ... If you throw it one second later, it’s a turnover. If you throw it one second earlier, it’s a turnover. When this guy throws it, it’s an assist. So you really have to be locked in when he has the ball.”

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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