B/R Exclusive: Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs Talks NBA Draft, Financial Advice and More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2021

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga won 93-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

One look at the list of players Jalen Suggs studies should tell NBA general managers all they need to know about how much the Gonzaga star wants to thrive at the next level.Β 

"I wouldn't say that there's one player specifically that I model my game after," he told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "I watch a lot of film and try to pick up little things from multiple different players, whether it's Russell Westbrook, LeBron James; or I watch a lot of Dame Lillard and Steph Curry. There's a lot of guys whose game I watch to pick and choose some things to add to my own game."

Mixing and matching aspects of Westbrook, James, Lillard and Curry would certainly pave the way for success, and Suggs is already looking forward to going up against those stars on a nightly basis.

"All of them," he said when asked who he is looking forward to facing the most in the NBA. "There's going to be stars on the floor each and every night on every team. It's going to be fun to play against some of that top competition and some of the people that I watched growing up my entire life."

If his one season at Gonzaga was any indication, Suggs will be up for the challenge.

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He was a consensus All-American, the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year, the WCC tournament MVP and an NCAA all-tournament team selection during his brief time in the college game.

He helped lead the Bulldogs to an undefeated regular season and into the national title game while averaging 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals a night behind 50.3 percent shooting from the field and 33.7 percent shooting from three-point range.

Throw in one of the most memorable shots in NCAA history when Suggs drilled an overtime buzzer-beater from just inside half court to beat UCLA in the Final Four, and he will go down as a Gonzaga legend even though his team did lose to Baylor in the national championship game.

Yet it wasn't the time on the floor that he said he will remember the most when reflecting back on his collegiate career.

"Just the moments that I shared with my teammates and everyone on the staff," Suggs said. "Going into this awkward year with COVID and everything, it was really just me and my teammates and the staff every day. We didn't have fans at our games, so that's who I'd go see every day. We made the most out of it and enjoyed each other's company. They made it easier to be away from family for a majority of the year."

With that time at Gonzaga now in the rearview mirror, he is preparing for the transition to the NBA both on and off the court.

Part of that off-court transition involves avoiding common money mistakes, and Suggs is partnering with Wells Fargo and its Clear Access banking account that does not charge overdraft fees to help young people like himself do just that.

"For teenagers like myself and others just getting started with their own banking account, it eliminates the chances for them to make costly mistakes," the 19-year-old said. "Working with Clear Access banking has been a lot of fun, they made it so easy for me, and I would recommend it to anyone else looking to start a banking account."

That account figures to get quite the influx come draft day.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected the Oklahoma City Thunder to select Suggs with the No. 4 overall pick in his latest mock draft. Wasserman pointed to Suggs' "open-floor burst and passing skills and impressive pull-up and floater" that would play well alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for years to come while also highlighting his athleticism and defense.

There is little question about Suggs' athleticism.

After all, he was Minnesota's Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football and could have pursued a college football scholarship since powerhouses such as Ohio State, Notre Dame and Georgia were interested in him at quarterback.

"Ohio State was up there, Alabama, Florida State, Iowa State, Minnesota," he said while acknowledging he wasn't quite sure where he would have gone if he did play football.

He clearly made the right decision, though, seeing how he appears well on his way to becoming a top-five pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

And Suggs is ready to be a leader wherever he goes.

"I'm coming in to win basketball games for whichever franchise chooses me," he said. "I'm coming in to do everything that needs to be done so that each and every night we walk away with a chance to win. Be it my leadership, my toughness and my competitive spirit, along with just wanting to get better and learn from all those around me."

With that approach, future prospects will soon be studying his game.