Jalen Suggs looked every bit like a five-star, top-10 prospect at the Under Armour Association Session II in Kansas City. The Des Moines Register
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jalen Suggs soared above the rim for a rebound. A split second after landing, he turned to his left and fired a one-handed, righty pass down the length of the court, perfectly placed for his teammate to score in stride.
Gonzaga's Mark Few and Michigan State's Tom Izzo watched from 10 feet away.
They were among a crowd of coaches in Kansas City last Sunday to see Suggs, a 6-foot-5 point guard who has the sport's elite clamoring to be his pit stop before the NBA.
Coaches saw, in that moment, why major programs also want Suggs for football. With high-end speed and an arm that can fire pinpoint, full-court assists, Suggs is widely considered one of the country's best 2020 quarterback prospects, too.
"With how good he is? It’s just amazing to be able to be by his side," said four-star 2020 linebacker Kaden Johnson, Suggs' basketball and football teammate.
Suggs comes from a family known for producing legendary Twin Cities talent, including NFL linebacker Terrell Suggs. At Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Suggs has already won three state basketball titles and one state football title.
"A natural leader," Larry Suggs, Jalen's father and AAU coach, told the Register about his son. "He's a born winner — always has won."
There's little doubt Suggs can succeed at either sport in college. Rivals ranks him the No. 1 point guard in 2020 and the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the class.
The real question is: Which sport will he play in college? Or ... will he play both?
"That is appealing because it’s going to be hard to give one up," Suggs said, leaning back on the bench after Sunday's game. "At the end of the day, I’m going to have to make a decision. You can’t play them both forever."
Whether that decision comes before or after college remains to be seen.
There are almost too many to count at this point, but Suggs holds at least 25 basketball offers, including from Gonzaga and Kansas. He said about 10-12 schools have offered him in both sports, including Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Georgia and Ohio State.
Behind the scenes, it seems probable that Suggs will at least play basketball in college. He is one of the 10 best juniors in the country, a two-time gold-medal winner with Team USA and he's already appearing in the first round of 2021 mock NBA drafts.
The buzz in Kansas City was that, while it may not be their first choice, high-major schools would have to let Suggs play both sports if that's what it takes to get him.
He's worth the risk.
"They've said he's a rare athlete, a rare breed," Larry Suggs said of the schools who have offered in both sports, "and that he could probably be the one and only kid to pull it off like that at such a high level."
Added Jalen Suggs: "If they’re not comfortable with me doing something I want to do, then I know that's not the place for me. So we'll see."
Football obviously won't be an option at every school. Gonzaga, for instance, doesn't have a football team. Duke has long shown interest, but it's hard to imagine Mike Krzyzewski would want his starting point guard playing football.
How uncommon is it to play both sports in college?
Football and basketball seasons collide. November and, potentially, December both feature college basketball and football action. Would that mean Suggs would stop playing football in November? Or would he still suit up on Saturdays and just not practice as often?
Generational athletes have made it work in the past. Charlie Ward played both at Florida State, won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 and went on to have an 11-year NBA career.
Tony Gonzalez played power forward and tight end for California from 1994-97 before his Hall of Fame NFL career. Terrell Owens played both at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Julius Peppers played both at North Carolina.
Those in Suggs' circle are confident Jalen could be the next success story.
"He's so passionate about both. He wants to play both," Johnson said. "He’s just such a hard worker. He doesn't want to limit himself to just one sport. He'll play baseball, for all he cares. He’s just that type of player — he’s great at everything."
Beyond harnessing gifts from a talented bloodline, Suggs' athletic prowess is a result of tireless work in the film room, his father said. In his off time during football season, Jalen is studying basketball. And when he's got down time in the winter, he'll pull up football film.
It's constant work, but Suggs lives for it.
The point guard/quarterback said he loves both basketball and football. Adores them. Can't imagine life without either one.
But he knows he'll have to face that reality one day.
"A lot of decisions to make coming up pretty soon," Suggs said, looking at the empty basketball court before him, "so I'm just trying to have fun with it right now while I can."
As the arena emptied out around him, with AAU basketball done for the weekend, Suggs remained on the bench, taking his time to leave his home on the hardwood.
What is Suggs saying about Iowa and Iowa State?
On Iowa, which had an in-home visit with him last week:"I’ve always known Coach Fran (McCaffery) since I've been real young. I know Pat (McCaffery), I know his sons. I've been down there a couple times, so I have a lot of great relationships down there. It's close to home. That's one where it really truly is a family feel, and I feel comfortable down there. … They’re in the mix."
On Iowa State: "One of my best friends from school, four-star safety Craig McDonald, just committed there. Going down there with him would be great. That's my guy. That's one of my best friends. Close to home. Real family feel. I know a couple guys on the team. I'm real good friends with Coach (Steve) Prohm."
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.