The spotlight on Minnehaha Academy boys basketball won’t dim anytime soon with former star Jalen Suggs' NCAA tournament run and senior Chet Holmgren bound for college stardom.
“The publicity is off the charts,” Redhawks coach Lance Johnson said. “We’ve been blessed.
Minnehaha Academy became the second Minnesota high school boys basketball program to have back-to-back Mr. Basketball winners on April 14. Holmgren won it after leading the Redhawks to the Class 2A state title on April 10. Suggs won it in 2020 amid a season halted by COVID-19.
Hopkins, a household name in Minnesota prep hoops, did it in 2011 with Joe Coleman and 2012 with Siyani Chambers. Like Coleman and Chambers, both Redhawks stars earned McDonald’s All-American honors.
“And we’ve done it at Minnehaha Academy, which always has had a decent reputation for basketball, but not the reputation like Hopkins has had,” Johnson said. “It’s just awesome.”
Suggs and Holmgren came to Minnehaha Academy as sixth graders in the early 2010s. Johnson said he believes both families had more than basketball in mind when choosing the school for their sons. Redhawks sports were competitive, too, at the time, Johnson noted.
“They’ve been kids who have not all of sudden showed up on the scene in high school, but they’ve been part of Minnehaha for years,” Johnson said. “I know that both parents, Jalen’s and Chet’s, were very interested in a school that would challenge them academically, and was a great social environment for them.”
Suggs emerged on the Redhawks varsity basketball scene as a seventh-grader. He became the go-to player for the team as his career progressed, which included leading the Redhawks to three-consecutive Class 2A state titles.
His athletic prowess spilled over to the football field as a quarterback where he led the St. Paul Academy-Minnehaha Academy-Blake football team to the Class 4A state title in 2018. SMB took runner-up the following year as Suggs won Mr. Football, becoming the first Minnesota athlete to win Mr. Football and Basketball in the same school year.
Suggs kept the success going as a freshman at Gonzaga, helping the Zags reach the national title game with a 31-0 record. Baylor spoiled the Zags’ shot at a perfect season, but Johnson liked what he saw from Suggs.
“Jalen still competed, and he had a great game in the final game,” Johnson said. “He looked like he belonged against Baylor, and Baylor has dudes that are NBA bodies and NBA quickness and speed, and Jalen, he did great.”
Suggs is anticipated to be a high lottery pick in the NBA Draft this summer.
Holmgren, the nation’s top recruit this year, had an impressive list of suitors with offers from North Carolina, Gonzaga, Memphis, Ohio State, Georgetown, and Minnesota according to ESPN. In late April, Holmgren announced he was heading to Gonzaga.
Holmgren focused on the Redhawks’ latest run to a state title, and he dominated along the way, leading the team to a 20-1 record. The 7-1 center averaged 21 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, two blocks, and 1.3 steals per game.
Johnson acknowledged that having Suggs and Holmgren in the Redhawks program is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, but he anticipates good things for the Redhawks in seasons to come.
“We do get back to some normalcy, but we should be competitive because we do have plenty of good players coming through Minnehaha,” Johnson said. “If you’re maximizing your potential and still not winning a state tournament, it’s still a great year.”