Gonzaga Bulldogs signee Chet Holmgren named Gatorade’s National Player of the Year

Gonzaga signee Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 prospect in the 2021 ESPN 100 class, is the 2020-2021 Gatorade National Player of the Year, the sports drink company announced on Wednesday.

The seven-footer averaged 20.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 4.4 assists last season for Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Past winners of the award include RJ Barrett, Jayson Tatum, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

Jalen Suggs, the former Gonzaga star and Holmgren’s high school teammate, surprised his friend on Wednesday with a virtual announcement notifying him he’d won the honor, while Holmgren’s family and friends gathered in Minneapolis to congratulate him. The top-ranked prospect said he’s happy the organization will make a donation to a local organization in Minnesota on his behalf.

“It’s definitely a huge honor to win such a prestigious award and it’s even more of an honor to me personally because of the charity work that they’ll do on my behalf by donating to a sports program close to home that’s helped a lot of people I know,” he said.

Suggs said Holmgren — “my little big brother” — is deserving of the honor. He also said Gonzaga will add an incredible talent next season.

“Offensively, he’s a threat anywhere above halfcourt,” Suggs said. “He’s got a great shot that’s hard to block, hard to contest because he’s so tall. Great midrange. I think he’s going to show off this year.”

With Holmgren, Gonzaga could enter next season as the favorite to win the national title a year after finishing as the runner-up to Baylor in April. Drew Timme, who recently announced his return, could be the consensus preseason national player of the year. And Holmgren is a projected top-three pick in ESPN’s latest 2022 NBA mock draft.

“I think we’ll play great off each other,” Holmgren said about playing next to Timme. “Our strengths complement each other very well. I plan to use my shooting to space the court to help him out. Defensively, I’m more of a rim-protector.”

Holmgren said he’s spent “every morning” in the weight room since graduating from high school as he prepares for next season, which could also include a new set of rules that might allow players to capitalize via the changes to the name, image and likeness landscape.

“I think they’re coming a little too late,” Holmgren said about proposed NIL rules. “It’s something that should have happened a long time ago. But it’s something very cool that hopefully my class will be able to take advantage of. I don’t know the rules yet. I can’t say a lot on it at the moment. But I definitely think it’s a special opportunity that hopefully a lot of people can take advantage of.”

Added Suggs: “It’s hard because of the revenue that’s brought in from the sports and the guys who played. That isn’t really given back to them and they’re the ones putting in the work for it.”

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