With multiple marquee performances on national television and viral highlight videos already under his belt, Team Sizzle (a.k.a. Minnehaha Academy) senior Chet Holmgren was essentially a household name before the 2020-21 high school season even started. Then came the month of November, which featured two events that continued to propel his notoriety and further cement his national ranking. First, came the Pangos All-American Festival, which featured teams filled with some of the top talent in the 2021 high school class. Holmgren was one of the major standouts of the two-day event: he averaged 22.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and a truly unheard of 12.5 blocks for the ‘midwest’ team. After becoming the talk of the town at an event filled with future NBA and professional prospects, Holmgren and Team Sizzle headed to Ann Arbor, Mich. for a made-for-tv match-up on ESPN2 against Ypsi Prep (MI), featuring top-ranked 2022 prospect, Emoni Bates. In a match-up in which both teams lived up to the hype, both players likely exceeded it. Holmgren ultimately won the game and truly stole the show, finishing with 31 points, 12 rebounds and 6 emphatic blocked shots.
More than just the numbers themselves, it is the way that Holmgren was able to garner them that is most impressive. He’s competent as a ball handler, oftentimes even initiating the offense. He makes adept outlet passes and is decisive passing out of double teams. He cleans up the glass for easy put-backs and creates shots off of the dribble, whether it be off-foot lay-ups, fadeaways or pull-up jumpers. In addition to all of this offensive talent, he’s one of the most uniquely effective rim protectors in recent memory.
At 7-feet tall with plus-length, Holmgren is a master of verticality, timing and instincts. He can meet opponents at the rim, get to the ball at its high point and affect shots all the way out to the perimeter. His frame is definitely a work in progress, as he is still around the 190-pound range, though he is a fierce competitor who shows no fear in mixing it up with stronger players. When watching Holmgren, there is no questioning his toughness and tenacity, which typically makes up for instances where he’s giving up 50-plus pounds to whoever he’s guarding.
Looking ahead post-high school, it seems like he is keeping his options open. He would appear to be a great candidate for the G-League Elite program, while schools such as Gonzaga, Michigan, Minnesota (his father David’s alma mater) and other top programs are just a few of his college possibilities. Over time, it’s looking more and more like Holmgren will be a highly-coveted NBA draft prospect in 2022, with some standout skills on both sides of the floor. He appears to have a keen eye on what the game of basketball has become, and has the ability to fit exactly what the highest level is looking for.
In this interview, Holmgren goes into his family’s background, how he sees himself as a player, a glimpse into his recruitment process, how he feels about rankings, when he really felt he arrived as a basketball player, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Chet Holmgren, from Minneapolis, Minnesota:
Pro Insight: Tell us a bit about your background.
Chet Holmgren: I’m Chet Holmgren and I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ve been there my whole life. I’m 18 years old as of this interview. My dad, his name's David and he's kind of the one that got me into all this basketball stuff a long time ago. When there were dinosaurs roaming around, he played for the University of Minnesota [laughs]. My mom, she couldn't make the trip (*note: this interview was conducted at the Border League in Phoenix), she's at home with my two sisters and my grandma. My oldest sister is 20 years old and is currently going through college and all that fun stuff. And then my little sister, she's 16 years old and she’s still in high school. They're both pretty tall, just like me — my whole family is pretty much.
PI: Do your sisters play basketball as well?
CH: My little sister played volleyball, but she's taking a break from it right now. My older sister was a swimmer, but unfortunately she had some medical issues so it kind of derailed her career.
PI: Did she swim collegiately prior to injury?
CH: No her medical issues happened midway through her junior year of high school unfortunately, but now, I give her props because I could never do it — but she's doing some hard stuff in college. I don't even know, it's over my head [laughs].
PI: Where does she go to college?
CH: She goes to a wing of the University of Minnesota. It's more medical-based.
PI: Let’s talk hoops. For those who don’t know your game, what are your biggest strengths?
CH: Just being able to affect the game in any way, kind of a jack-of-all-trades player. Offensively and defensively, be able to guard all five players on the other team and be able to play all five positions on offense. Just be as impactful of a player that I can possibly be.
PI: What are some improvement areas?
CH: You know, that question will be a forever ongoing question. My game will never be complete. Trying to find the balance between working on perfecting specific things, but also working on everything at the same time. This extended off-season because of COVID, I've put a lot of time into my body, getting bigger and stronger. I still look pretty skinny, but I’ve put on like 10-12 pounds. And then on top of that, being able to just be comfortable with the ball in my hands. Especially with Jalen [Suggs] going off to college, I knew I'd have to put the ball in my hands a lot more and that's something I wanted. I'm able to definitely play off the ball, but I feel I can be most effective with the ball in my hands.
PI: What are some underrated aspects of your game?
CH: Honestly I'd say people always talk about the shot blocking and the, you know, go above the rim and block people who try and dunk on me and stuff. Every once in a while I'll get dunked on, but you know, it's part of it. I get a lot of props on that [rim protection], but I don't think people really give me props for being able to really sit down and guard a point guard. You know, defending out on the wing, up top, being able to double off ball screens without the point guard being able to get over the top. If the point guard gets over the top, you know, the double is basically pointless at that point, you're in the way of the other defenders, so they have free reign down the middle of the lane. Just being able to do that and move my feet really well. Offensively, I still think people don't think I can dribble. I heard a coach say three or four times when I had the ball, “go rip him.” I turned it over a couple of times, I gotta fix that, but definitely would have expected more turnovers [off the dribble] from somebody my size. Really, dribbling the ball is not that difficult because I feel personally, one-on-one, I don't think anybody can stay in front of me. And if the double comes, you know, at seven feet tall, I can see over pretty much any defense. There’s almost never going to be anybody taller or longer than me on a court, so just being able to recognize situational awareness, see that double coming and then find the open man. This is something [passing] that I also see as underrated about me.