MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis-native Chet Holmgren continues to make history.
As one of the top basketball prospects to ever come out of the state, Holmgren became the highest Minnesota-born player picked in the NBA Draft when Oklahoma City selected the 7-footer No. 2 overall Thursday evening. The next highest was Hibbing's Kevin McHale, who was selected No. 3 overall in the 1980 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics.
"Yeah, it's a mix of emotions, probably a thousand emotions, all good ones. You know, I don't really have words to describe them, but I'm so blessed and grateful to be able to be here," Holmgren told reporters from Brooklyn, where the 2022 NBA Draft was being held.
Holmgren's name has been swirling around the state's basketball community for the better part of a decade, culminating in four MSHSL state championships with Minnehaha Academy and winning the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year his senior season. Holmgren, who averaged 20.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 4.4 assists his senior year, is the only Minnesotan to ever win the award. Paige Bueckers, of Hopkins, won the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award in 2020.
"Tall, skinny kid in the middle school, always with a basketball under his arm," said Minnehaha Academy Athletic Director Josh Thurow, who has known Holmgren since he was in sixth grade. "We've enjoyed watching him as a person, and a player. He's turned into a fine young man who has the right kind of values and appreciates all those around him. He was never too cool for anyone at our school."
Holmgren spent one season at Gonzaga where he averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks while shooting .607 from the field and .390 from beyond the arc. He helped Gonzaga earn the top seed entering the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and a spot in the Sweet 16 before falling to Arkansas.
Now, Holmgren will now join Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder, marking the second consecutive year a Minnesotan was selected in the top 5 of the NBA Draft. Last year, Jalen Suggs, a former teammate of Holmgren's at Minnehaha Academy, was drafted fifth overall by the Orlando Magic.
"It's like getting hit with lightning twice. It's not supposed to happen even the first time," said Thurow of having two NBA Draft lottery picks to come out of Minnehaha Academy. "To have two pro basketball players? No, I could have never dreamed that."
With the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's draft, the Magic had a chance to reunite Holmgren with Suggs, however, the team chose Duke's Paolo Banchero instead.
"It'll be special to share the court with Jalen again," Holmgren said. "Obviously, we won't be wearing the same jersey, but to share the court with him would be special and to compete with him. Again, even though we are not on the same team, it will be a great day."
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