Video: Chet Holmgren highlights
See the 7-foot Minnehaha Academy 5-star center in action.
Sierra Canyon's B.J. Boston streaked up the floor, believing he was set for an uncontested layup. The Top 15 prospect from the Class of 2020 couldn't have been more wrong.
Out of nowhere, a long right arm swatted the ball against the backboard. Chet Holmgren
, with his 7-foot-5 wing span, was doing what he does best.
The junior at Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.)
is a force in the paint and a hot commodity on the recruiting circuit. Holmgren has the rare inside-out combination — the 7-foot size of a center with the raw guard skills that can drain jumpers from the perimeter.
"I'm a do-it-all, do-whatever-is-asked-of-me kind of guy," Holmgren said. "Whether that's handle the ball, push it in transition, stretch the floor, get the team into offense, protect the rim, switch on the guard. Whatever it is, just try and be able to do it as needed."
That versatility — he's called a stretch four by high school coach Lance Johnson — leaves high school basketball players around the country fearful and has college coaches salivating.
Johnson said the transformation from "decent high school player" as a ninth-grader into a top college and even pro prospect with a game similar to Kevin Durant has been thrilling.
"That's off-the-charts improvement in just a couple of years," the coach said.
The No. 4-rated player in the Class of 2021, according to 247Sports.com, Holmgren is one of the top shot blockers in the prep game.
"His shot-blocking ability is just uncanny," Johnson said. "He's got such a natural sense of timing and where to be to block a shot.
"He doesn't swat it. He tips it, so we often get the ball back. He blocks everybody's shots, from posts to guards, and he does it without fouling."
So, what has been the key to Holmgren becoming such a solid shot blocker?
"I'd say a lot of it's just natural, but I definitely put a lot of practice into it," Holmgren said. "My dad's helped me out with it, a lot of small, little techniques and stuff."
If Holmgren doesn't block a shot in the paint, he certainly alters it.
"It's such a cool thing entering a game knowing he's already got you 30 points or so because of his defensive ability," Johnson said.
Minnehaha Academy, a small private school that has won three straight Minnesota Class 2A state titles, has taken on top-notch competition from around the country all season. Against Sierra Canyon on Jan. 4 at the Clash of the Champions at Minneapolis' Target Center, Holmgren showed the national audience on ESPN what he's all about, registering a unique double-double — 12 blocks and 10 rebounds.
Holmgren believes the best part of his game is his ability to affect the game the without scoring.
"I feel like it was evident in the Sierra Canyon game, because I didn't need to score to affect the game in a huge way," he said.
Holmgren's low-post game is "adequate" at this point in his young career, according to his coach. Johnson said he'll improve in the paint as his frame continues to fill out, and, at 190 pounds, Holmgren has plenty of room to grow.
For how effective he is as a defensive player, Holmgren is becoming a stronger offensive threat.
Holmgren, averaging 16 points, 6.4 blocks and 1.9 assists through the first eight games this season, doesn't necessarily need to be a big-time scorer for the Redhawks. He's surrounded by great talent, including Jalen Suggs
, the No. 10-rated player in the Class of 2020.
Suggs, a Gonzaga commit, is a 6-foot-5 combo guard who has played alongside Holmgren since elementary school.
"They usually have a pretty good idea where they are on the floor, where they are going," Johnson said. "Jalen is an incredible lob passer, so Chet is the beneficiary of a lot of alley-oop dunks during the course of the season."
Holmgren said he and Suggs help each other out tremendously on the basketball court, especially during practice.
"We push each other; we go hard at each other," the center said. "We allow each other to work on our games. In games, I allow him to play more aggressively on the defensive end because he goes for a lot of steals, gets a lot of steals. If he doesn't get it, he knows I'm on the backside helping him out.
"Then offensively, he's great at creating for his teammates. He definitely opens the floor a lot for me as well, and after playing together for so long, we've gotten really good at playing off of each other."
It's not uncommon for Holmgren and Suggs to play one-on-one or have shooting contests at practice. Holmgren confidently said neither he nor Suggs dominate those matchups, going back and forth depending on the day.
"Never too serious, but neither of us like to lose," Holmgren said.
'Everybody has called'
One year after Suggs had college coaches swarming in the Minnehaha gymnasium, Holmgren is having the same effect.
"Just about everybody has called, and Chet is really thoughtful and he's not going to rush into a decision and he's going to take all of his visits," Johnson said. "He likes the process where I think some kids, it becomes too much for them. He's very social, so he loves to talk basketball with coaches. Now, it's just where he feels most comfortable and fits the best."
Coach Johnson, knowing he has a rare talent, has been helping Holmgren with the recruiting process.
"I'll probably never have a player like Chet again in my coaching career, even if I was going to coach another 50 years, which isn't going to happen," Johnson said. "Then to have Jalen as well, I don't know what I did, but I've been blessed."
Holmgren has received about 30 scholarship offers thus far with Roy Williams and North Carolina being the latest on Jan. 15.
"It's crazy. It's an honor," Holmgren said. "It's something that you can't take for granted. It's something that takes a little while to hit you. Not many people get the opportunity to say they've gotten an offer from UNC or go play for UNC."
Gonzaga is high on Holmgren's list, as is his hometown school, Minnesota. It's where his dad, David, played in the mid-1980s.
Yet, Holmgren doesn't have any favorites at this point.
"None in particular. Kind of just watching to see what offenses I like, see where I can fit in and see where I can be successful," Holmgren said.
With Holmgren being so versatile, he can fit into many styles of offenses. Add to that Holmgren could grow a few more inches and is just starting to tap into his talent, his potential is endless in any system.
"His upside is huge, and that has everybody salivating as well," Johnson said. "You're not getting a kid that is done growing. He has incredible upside. I can't imagine how good he's going to be in five, six years. He's going to be amazing."