Two-Sport Star Jalen Suggs Has Eye On Basketball For Now As A U19 World Cup Team Hopeful
As one of the top two-sport athletes in the country, Jalen Suggs doesn’t have an offseason.
Ranked the No. 12 basketball player and the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback in football in the country by 247Sports, Suggs is always adjusting his body and workouts based on which sport is next on his calendar.
Currently, he is in basketball mode. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound point guard from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis is one of 31 players participating the next few days in the e USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup Team training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. The 12-man roster will be finalized next week before the team heads to Heraklion, Greece, for the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup from June 29-July 7.
Suggs is focusing on his conditioning — a key to transitioning between sports — as well as his jump shot.
“Something that really separates people is how long they can go hard for,” Suggs said of building up his endurance. “(Also) becoming a better, smarter PG, knowing when to do what and when to speed the game up, when to slow it down. Knowing when to get my bigs or someone who’s hot the ball. Just trying to overall improve my game.”
He also says the physical part of football helps him become a better basketball player.
“It brings a certain level of toughness,” Suggs said. “Football, you get hit, you get up and you have 45 seconds to get back (and run the next play). When you translate that to the basketball court, when you dive for a loose ball, go up get a hard foul, you have to get up, you’ve got to make the free throw or get back on defense. You don’t really get a break, you don’t get to come out, especially when you’re a premier player. It brings a certain level of toughness and leadership.”
Suggs’ list of accomplishments across both sports is impressive. He averaged 23.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 assists per game in leading Minnehaha to its third straight state basketball title after throwing for 1,578 yards and 12 touchdowns, while adding 604 yards and eight TDs rushing with another state championship. Those go along with winning gold medals for USA Basketball at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup.
He enjoys the difference in the two sports.
“You’re like the second coach in both football and basketball, when you’re the quarterback and the PG,” Suggs said. “You’re pretty much a second voice for him and you command the team when you’re out there playing. The differences are football, it can be different because you have 55 other guys on the team. I wouldn’t say you are in charge, but you are definitely a leader. ... On the basketball court, you just have the guys on the court and on the bench, usually have about 11, 12 people. So I think that’s one difference.
“Two, I’d say the way you lead. Football, a lot of it is speaking. You can go out and lead by example and make a big play, but you want to keep your guys in it, keep their heads up because they’re needed, they’re necessary. On the basketball court, a lot of it is more mental. A lot of the guys are going to get in and play at some point of the game. There’s no, like, when to be hard on them, when to be encouraging, when to give them a pat on the back and tell them, ‘Let’s go.’ I think that’s a little bit different as well.”
Suggs has the bloodlines for both sports. Terrell Suggs, the longtime Baltimore Ravens and current Arizona Cardinals linebacker, is a cousin, while 14-year NBA veteran Eddie Jones is a second cousin. It has boosted his drive being able to watch two professional athletes in his family.
“It’s been great,” Suggs said. “Being able to go see Terrell go play on Sundays and get sacks and hear his name being considered among first-ballot Hall of Famers, it’s great to hear and great to see. It definitely sets the bar high for me. I’m a competitor and I’m always trying to be the best, whether it’s being on the court at the time, whether it’s being the best in the state, country or the best in my family. They’ve given me a lot of insight and gives me something to chase and work towards.”
The cousins have been able to guide Suggs on the rigors of recruiting, which is coming at him from both sports. Suggs is a five-star recruit in basketball and a four-star in football, drawing the interest from a wide range of programs. Suggs could play both sports in college, or he might eliminate one. He constantly talks with his parents and coaches about his future. He said he could make a decision early in the school year.
“If it’s something that ends up working out, great, then I get to keep playing my two sports, but if not, I knew I was going to have to make a decision one day,” Suggs said.
So for now, he is concentrating on basketball and possibly a third gold medal with USA Basketball at the World Cup in Greece.
“To be able to put USA across your chest three times, three times you go to try out would be crazy,” he said. “To be picked among the 12 best people in the country to represent the United States, a complete blessing, I’d be thankful.”