2022 NBA Draft: Gonzaga C Chet Holmgren, the possible No. 1 pick, declares after freshman season with Bulldogs

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Gonzaga star Chet Holmgren announced Thursday that he is declaring for the NBA Draft after a standout freshman season with the Bulldogs. Holmgren earned second-team All-America honors from CBS Sports while helping Gonzaga to a 28-4 record and Sweet 16 appearance during his lone season with the program.

The former five-star prospect will be in the mix to go No. 1 overall in the draft after living up to his substantial recruiting hype. Holmgren averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game for the Zags while shooting 39% from 3-point range. The 7-footer finished fourth in Division I this season with 117 blocks.

Though Gonzaga’s season ended in relatively disappointing fashion with a loss to Arkansas in the Sweet 16, it was still a successful season for the Bulldogs as they earned a No. 1 seed for a third time in the past three NCAA Tournaments. Holmgren’s presence in the lineup as a rim protector and perimeter threat helped the Zags avoid much of a drop off following the departures of players like Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayai and Corey Kispert from the 2020-21 team that finished 31-1 with its only loss coming in the national title game.

In addition to various national honors, Holmgren was also named WCC Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference member.

Holmgren’s NBA Draft projection

There are plenty of big men who fancy themselves as “unicorns” with the alleged ability to swat shoots while also drilling 3-pointers and creating their own shots off the dribble like guards. Few do it as well as Holmgren. That’s why he is a lock to be among the first players selected in the draft. Holmgren went No. 1 overall in Kyle Boone’s latest mock draft and ranks No. 2 on Boone’s Big Board.

“Concerns about Holmgren’s long-term durability will linger well into his NBA career because of his 7-foot, 195-pound frame, but nevertheless, his game is too big to pass on.” Boone wrote. “Holmgren is an elite defender, great floor spacer and has guard skills to boot. If you’re picking at No. 1 you want to take the biggest possible swing, and Holmgren is absolutely that in this class. If he hits, he’s going to be a star.”

Impact on Gonzaga

Holmgren was the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with Gonzaga and was always expected to be a one-and-done player. The fact that his run with the Bulldogs was so successful only solidifies that Gonzaga can be a destination for the nation’s top prospects. Point guard Jalen Suggs provided it during the 2020-21 season, and Holmgren cemented this year.

Losing Holmgren will set the Zags back defensively, but it’s a loss that coach Mark Few and his staff anticipated. His rim protection from him was truly unique and gave the 2021-22 team a different look from the 2020-21 team that lost in the national title game to Baylor. If All-American forward Drew Timme returns for his senior season and Gonzaga adds a player from the portal who can play on the inside, the Zags will be just fine in the paint.

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