With his game-winning halfcourt buzzer-beater in Gonzaga’s Final Four win over UCLA on Saturday night, Jalen Suggs became the face of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Had Suggs chosen to take his athletic career in a different direction, though, he could be one of the quarterbacks competing for Ohio State’s starting job right now.
The 2019 winner of Minnesota’s Mr. Football award, Suggs received offers to play quarterback from some of the top college programs in the country, also including Georgia, Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska, among others. He showed particular interest in Ohio State, though, even coming to an Ohio State football camp in 2018, where he spent the day working with Ohio State’s then-quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Ryan Day.
Blessed beyond measures to receive a scholarship from THE Ohio State University pic.twitter.com/SQvQCvvDV9— Jalen Suggs (@JalenSuggs2020) May 18, 2018
Day was impressed by what he saw from Suggs that day, and he thought Suggs had high upside as a quarterback. But he didn’t try to dissuade Suggs from playing basketball.
“Spent a lot of time recruiting Jalen,” Day said. “He came to our camp. And had a conversation with he and his family and friends, and just said, ‘I’ll do the best I can to get a great evaluation of how we project him out in football and as a quarterback.’ We thought he was really athletic, and told his family that I thought he could be a really good quarterback, but if he’s as good as they say he is in basketball, that probably would be his best avenue to take.”
Ryan Day on Jalen Suggs: Thought he was really athletic, and told his family that I thought he could be a really good quarterback, but if hes as good as they say he is in basketball, that probably would be his best avenue to take. And Im glad to see it all worked out for him. pic.twitter.com/XkHoNKsZB3— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) April 5, 2021
While Suggs had thought about playing both sports at the collegiate level, he ultimately decided to play only basketball in college, enrolling at a school that doesn’t even field a varsity football team.
That certainly appears to have been the right decision for Suggs, who was ranked as the No. 11 overall prospect in the basketball recruiting class of 2020. A second-team AP All-American, Suggs is widely projected to be a top-three pick in this year’s NBA draft. First, though, he’ll try to lead Gonzaga to its first-ever national championship when it plays Baylor at 9:20 p.m. Monday night.
Day is a big basketball fan himself, though, so he’s enjoyed watching the player he once recruited become a star point guard for the Bulldogs and lead them to a deep NCAA Tournament run.
“Unbelievable. What a game and what a shot. And really happy for him,” Day said when asked about Suggs’ game-winner against UCLA. “I’m glad to see it all worked out for him, he’s a great young man.”