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.
PI: How would you rank the top-five bigs in the 2021 class?
CH: Honestly, you know, I hate talking about rankings because I just don't see the point of it. I mean, what's the criteria for a ranking at the end of the day? When I watch players, a lot of people just look at who had 30 points or who had a cool mixtape. I'm kind of getting off topic, but I'll get back to them. You can shoot 40 shots and make eight and have a cool mixtape. That's the problem with the internet nowadays, but at the end of day, who's the most impactful? You could have 40 [points], but give up 45 [points] on defense. So, I mean, when I watch people, I try to watch to see who's the most impactful with the ball, without the ball, on offense/defense, offensive glass, defensive glass. I try to watch all the little things, because at the end of the day that's kind of what it comes down to. Players play so differently, like people call me a big, but I don't really even see myself as a big at the end of the day. So I wouldn't call Paolo [Banchero] a big, you know, so like who's a big? Who’s not a big? It's kind of hard.
PI: With that being said, are there any players in the 2021 class you feel are being slept on?
CH: I got a lot of respect for a lot of players, but slept on, you're putting me on the spot. I gotta think hard for this one. You know, actually Mike Foster [Hillcrest Prep] is top 10, but he's still slept on I’d say. They [rankings] put him at 15 and stuff, but he’s not a 15 player. I think our class  is really good with, you know, I'm not going to label them bigs because I hate saying that, but the taller guys: Patrick Baldwin, Paolo Banchero, Mike Foster, and the list goes on. I think we got a really good class of skilled big men, I'm gonna stop saying big men, but skilled big guys that can kind of do it all.
PI: Why the hesitancy to label yourself or others as bigs?
CH: I mean like what's the criteria for it at the end of the day? The game's changed so much. Thirty years ago the criteria for a big would have been, you know, sit on the block, basically Shaq, Dwight Howard, David Robinson, the list goes on. Nowadays, what's a big, really? Because you got Kristaps Porzingis, then you got Kevin Durant. He’s 6’11”, but is he a big? You know what I mean? Like, again, I don't know the criteria for it, so I'm not going to label somebody that. I'm just like, “you're a basketball player” and I look to see how they impact the game, I don't try to label people.
PI: What's the current update with your recruitment?
CH: Just at this point, trying to make some tough decisions on figuring out my schedule. COVID ruined so much for so many people, so I'm not going to sit here and be a cry baby because it's done a whole lot worse to a whole lot of other people, but I haven't been able to take the visits that I've wanted to take this year. I got to figure out if I could do it because they [NCAA] pushed back saying no visits till 2021 and they can push it back even farther. So I’m figuring out if I can even take those visits, because you know, it's kinda hard to go somewhere you've never been, if that makes sense. So just trying to figure all that stuff out.
PI: Are any schools recruiting you more than others?
CH: Uh, I mean they've all been pretty consistent. I talk to them regularly for the most part.
PI: What are you looking for in a school of choice?
CH: I mean, obviously great facilities and stuff, but when you get to the cream of the crop they all got it. So it's more looking at how am I going to fit in? I don't want to go somewhere that has to create a completely new offense or defense to fit me in. I want to go somewhere where I can see myself fitting in based off what's tried and true to them. Then down the list; see how I fit with the team, the players, the coaches, how I fit in with the student body, all the way down. Academics are important to me and my family as well. So at the end of the day, looking at all that.
PI: Did you ever consider the G-League or overseas as options?
CH: I mean, it's always an interesting thought that lingers in the back of your mind. Fortunately, my family's in a situation where, you know, I'm not in a rush to make a paycheck, if that makes sense. So just kind of doing what's best for my future and education is really top of the list. Even if I don't get my degree in four years or if it takes me 12 years or I do my one year and finish my three years when I'm done with my career. At the end of the day, getting that degree is going to be very important.
PI: What would you want to major in?
CH: Still gotta think about that, but I started out thinking of majoring/minoring in business finance. Learn how to work with money, turn money into more motivation. I also want to do sports science, basically understand how the body works. I'm going to always have people there helping me to change my body and do what I gotta do to make sure my body's right, but at the end of the day, if I can learn all that myself, I think that would be very important for me as well. So maybe a major and a double minor or something like that.
PI: Did you have a dream school growing up?
CH: I wouldn't say “dream school” because I never really dreamed of being where I am at this point. You know, being able to take my pick [of schools], really never thought I'd get this to this point. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but, when I was young I really loved watching the Jared Sullinger/Aaron Craft days at Ohio State. I don't know what it was, but I just always watched them. I’ve got an Ohio State jersey that my friend got me for my birthday in like seventh grade or something at the crib.
PI: Greg Oden was a mentor at USAB last year, did he share any advice with you?
CH: Yeah, I talked to him. He just said if I ever need anything to feel free to reach out. USAB has a tight schedule so I didn’t really get the time to sit down and chop it up with him, but just small things here or there. I got to talk to him every once in a while when I'd seen him during some downtime in between the lectures over at the lecture hall. We had the joint dinner with the parents and coaches, I was able to talk with him a little bit over on the side. It was great to talk to him, he has a unique story. A lot of people see it the wrong way. A lot of people were like, “he wasn't successful,” but he was very successful. You can control injuries to a certain extent, but at the end of the day they can happen to anybody.
PI: What position would you label yourself?
CH: A basketball player. At the end of the day, how can you label me as a position? If you go by the criteria of a position then I play a different position every time down the floor. If you watched the game we just played [vs. Coronado], I’m bringing the ball up, catching the ball in the corner and going through the offense, setting up the offense, posting up, etc. Pretty much almost doing it all, coming off ball screens, catching flares, like that's a shooting guard right there and bringing the ball up, that's a point guard right there, posting up, that'd be the four or five technically there, setting picks and popping, just kind of doing it all. Then defensively, for the most part I try to stay in the lane. I’m not going to say that’s where I’m most comfortable — I’m comfortable pretty much everywhere — but that's where the team needed me, to protect the room. You know, that's my house down there.
PI: You did our guy Osiris Grady wrong when he tried to poster you.
CH: You know, a lot of people have tried and very few have completed the mission. It's always going to be a highlight...whether they dunk on me or not, it's going to be a highlight.
PI: When do you feel like your game rounded a corner and you had a chance to be something special?
CH: Sophomore year, it was like the perfect storm. Everything just fell perfectly into place all the way from the beginning of the high school season. I mean, I'd say it started more freshman year because I had a lot of older guys playing over me and I was finding my role, finding my spot on the team, getting on the court, you know, just doing whatever it took really. Sophomore year JaVonni (Bickham) graduated, went to Denver to play basketball. That was our other big on our high school team. So then I was the one big, I was “the guy” who was playing the whole game, subbing out only if I had foul trouble or asked for it. Then AAU, Dain (Dainja) went over to Howard Pulley, that was a real big one, just the perfect storm I guess. You know, shout out to Dain, that's my guy. I loved playing with him, but at the end of the day, he was older than me, so he would have taken 20 touches a game. So I wouldn’t have gotten as many touches and that’s another guy in the defensive paint as well. So he would have also been taking half the blocks and a lot of the rebounds away. Once it was all put on my shoulders, it took a little second to adjust, but once I adjusted, I picked it up pretty well. Then after the high school season, we won the state championship, I went down to Atlanta for a little all-star game thing, came back and a week later we’re in Chicago for an Under Armor tournament and I averaged a triple double over the weekend. So that was kind of the coming out party. Because you know, high school season is kind of a joke nowadays because people are like, “it's just high school season and he's not going to do this on AAU.” And then coach Larry [Suggs] had me shooting threes, coming off double screens and nobody knew what was going on. So it was kind of a big year for me.
PI: Was that around the time you participated in the Steph Curry UA camp?
CH: Yeah, that was the end of that AAU season. So that was probably four or five months later. All of the people super tied into the basketball world found out about me that first weekend. Then NBPA Top-100 Camp is kind of what solidified it. Then when I went to Steph Curry’s camp, that's when all the casual fans found out about me. That clip was just all over, like I'm sick of watching it.
PI: What is your biggest passion outside of basketball?
CH: Just having a laugh, honestly.
PI: Are you the comedy guy?
CH: Depends on my mood, if I’m in a goofy mood it’ll be a good laugh. If I got some boring people around me it’s not going to be as funny as having some goofballs around me, but just having fun, hanging with friends, playing the game. Some of my friends don’t really play basketball, but we’ll just go to the park, play basketball, and have fun. I like to play video games. Maybe I’d say I have a huge passion for school, but online school, you know, leads to me playing Call of Duty sometimes [laughs]. Don’t do that at home kids, stay focused!
PI: Do you play NBA 2K as well?
CH: I don't want to mess up anything I got in the future with 2K, but honestly, I wouldn't say I despise 2K, but I'm just not an online sports fan because I'm way better in person than I am with my hands on the stick. Especially with my friends that don't play basketball, like if we ever play [2K] I'll lose by 20 and I'll be like, “come on, let's go take this to the real court.” Because me and all my friends are competitive, you know, like to talk some s***. I hate losing so I just stay away from it. If I know I'm going to lose them, I’m like “we can go play real basketball.”
PI: What are four words to describe yourself?
CH: Regular person. Funny. Competitive. People treat me like a celebrity sometimes, but it’s still weird when people recognize me out in public and ask for pictures because at the end of the day, I just feel like, you know, just me. It's definitely an adjustment just being thrown into it [fame] because it was really like a four-month thing and it was just like, boom, it happened. It took some time to adjust to it, but I've gotten used to it. And it's always pretty cool knowing that I got fans around taking pictures and stuff, it's pretty cool.
PI: On that note, as a top-ranked prospect and a 7-foot tall person in the social media age, how do you try to have a normal life?
CH: Honestly I could spend 20 minutes answering this question, but I’m going to try and keep it to like two minutes. Social media is a weird age because anybody can get on there and say whatever they want and for the most part, there is no accountability because you could take a picture of Homer Simpson and make that your whole account. And, you know, nobody would know who it is. That's why I think they need to change it. So, I think you gotta have an ID to make an account, because an eight year old has no reason to be on social media being one click away from hundreds of millions of people. I know if I ever have a daughter, my daughter will not be having social media until who knows how long. It’s another thing, just understanding how well known I am, it’s been a lesson since the day I was born really. My dad's been telling me this forever. Especially because my account is obviously not just a profile picture of Homer Simpson or something like that, it’s really me. And on top of that, I’m seven feet tall. Like wherever I go, I'm going to be recognized, and if I'm not, I'm going to be remembered just simply because I'm seven foot. So wherever you go, you've gotta be on top of your game. Always do the right thing, put a smile on your face even if you're in a bad mood because people remember and impressions are always very important. You never know who's watching.