The OKC Thunder found their franchise building block when they selected Gonzaga‘s Chet Holmgren with the second pick in the NBA draft. But the rise of Holmgren, a fascinating prospect with his rare combination of height and ball-handling ability, has been a long time coming.
Two years ago, Holmgren attended Under Armour’s camp, spotlighting some of the best young talent. That was when his popularity exploded, after the young big man crossed over Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry during a friendly five-on-five exhibition. From there, Holmgren became a viral sensation in the world of social media.
Chet Holmgren selected second by the OKC Thunder
While Holmgren saw his popularity explode overnight after the clip went viral on social media, his career has been worthy of a top pick. One of the top high school prospects, Holmgren went overseas to participate in tournaments as a representative of the United States.
A five-star recruit and the winner of several national player of the year awards, he chose to play college basketball at Gonzaga. In doing so, he followed the path of Jalen Suggs, his teammate since sixth grade at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Orlando Magic made Suggs the fifth pick in last year’s draft.
It’s been a steady road to the NBA for Holmgren, whose dad, David, played for the University of Minnesota in the 1980s. David is noted for videotaping every one of his son’s games with a well-worn video camera. His father is also a 7-footer.
Many expected the 7-foot big man to be the first selection throughout the NCAA season. Instead, Holmgren finds himself in a great landing spot with the OKC Thunder, who continue to construct an impressive roster of talent.
The 20-year-old has drawn plenty of criticism because of his thin frame, as most wonder if he can withstand the physical nature of the NBA game. Regardless of Holmgren’s physical frame, he’s thrived at every level of basketball.
Holmgren, a consensus second-team All-American, averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game last year. Holmgren was the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year, again following Suggs, who took the honor in the previous season.
Holmgren was also named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year and made the All-WCC first team and the WCC All-Freshman team.