Q&A with top-five junior Chet Holmgren
Is there a more unique player in high school basketball than Chet Holmgren? One of the most versatile prospects that the sport has seen in recent years, Holmgren ascended into the elite tier within his class’ rankings last summer and has cemented his standing ever since thanks to his combination of size, dexterity, shot making and shot blocking.
In our latest Q-and-A session, we spoke with the top-five junior to hear his thoughts on what he took from his junior season, the various national brands recruiting him, who he plans to spend an official visit on, when he might commit and what the coronavirus means in his own eyes.
Corey Evans (CE): How did your junior year go?
Chet Holmgren (CH): It had its ups and downs. Overall, it was a great learning experience. I have just tried to take the most out of every situation. There was some injuries during the season that were frustrating and I think we had six new guys playing so it was definitely new to everybody playing together and we were kind of finding our groove as the season went on and trying to find a way to play with and off of each other. We were starting to play together towards the end of the year, though.
CE: What has been the one thing that you have focused in upon that you feel that you need to get better at or have gotten better at over the past four or five months?
CH: Being able to score on all three levels whenever and wherever, but mostly down in the post. Before this season, I wasn’t comfortable down in the post, especially through contact. I wouldn’t even say for a lack of strength but because I was just shying away from contact too much but it was something that I worked on a lot this year since we played with four point guards so there wasn’t much room for me to be out handling the ball a lot. I still used all of that game but definitely had to develop more post work in my game.
CE: You have always been someone that have prided yourself on being so unique and having really no true position. What is that like for you?
CH: I just try to be the most versatile person that I can be and it doesn’t have to be one dimensional. I want to be able to do whatever my matchup leads me to do. If I have someone put on me that is shorter and quicker than I am, I am not going to take him out onto the wing; I am going to take him down low. If I have someone bigger and slower than me, I am going to try and have him chase me off of pin-downs and curls on the wing. I have never tried to play into the defense’s hands but rather, use my physical advantages to my own advantages and that is why it worked so well with my post game this year.
CE: Is that some of the things that you’re looking forward to for college, that is having the right scheme and role to excel at the next level?
CH: Yeah, for sure. I don’t want to end up somewhere that I am just going to be a one-dimensional player but I want to be able to showcase my versatility and do what I have to do depending on what the game calls for. I don’t want to have just to set picks and roll to the rim every game, all game long. If somebody can’t guard me in the post, I would like to be able to take him down to the post, and if someone can’t guard me on the wing, I would like to have the freedom to go and operate on the wing, as well as stretch the floor and shoot the ball from distance; basically whatever the game calls from me.
CE: What schools do you feel like have done a good job of staying in touch with you of late and has made you a priority?
CE: You have taken two officials so far?
CH: Yeah, I went to Gonzaga and Ohio State.
CE: How was Gonzaga and having someone like Jalen (Suggs) going there potentially, too?
CH: It was amazing. I was very glad that I went and I couldn’t have asked for a better visit. It is kind of like Minnesota weather wise. It is a decent sized city, not super big but not super small, but it is a decent sized college. It is definitely somewhere I can see myself going and focusing in on however long I am there for.
CE: What about Ohio State? What was the vibe like there?
CH: Yeah, I loved it. It is a huge sports school so pretty much everything there revolves around its sports. There is a huge legacy there, not just with basketball but with football and all of the accomplishments they have made. It is definitely another place that I could see myself being at for a decent amount of time.
CE: What about Minnesota? Every year, there seems to be a next man up from the state; what has been there sell to you and what is that connection like with your father playing there during his own college days?
CH: It is definitely good there with them. We have had a relationship for a while. They offered me my freshman year, first time that I was playing 17-under on the travel circuit and it has been building since then. Coach (Rob) Jeter, he just moved on to the head coach job at Western Illinois so I am happy for him and I am just continuing to build a relationship with Coach (Richard) Pitino and the other coaches on the staff. I also live ten minutes away from the campus, my dad used to go there, my mom used to work for a wing at the university and again, there is just a legacy there.
CE: North Carolina is a school that could lose a lot in the frontcourt next year so what is your thoughts on that program?
CH: It is definitely, again, the legacy there with its basketball program is crazy. To think that I have the chance to play in the same place that Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, and the list goes on, it is pretty crazy the guys that have gone there. Coach (Roy) Williams, he is great at what he does and has been there for a long time. I am very interested in them and there is reasons for why I am not rushing things and taking my time with my recruitment because there is so much that goes into how you fit into a school based off the personnel that they have and you just don’t know until right up until after your senior year with who is going to be there, who is leaving and if there is six big dudes at a school, it is definitely going to be something that weighs into my decision.
CE: Memphis is a new one that has jumped into your recruitment. What do they mean to you and how do they stand out compared to all others?
CH: They have just been preaching to me a lot of the knowledge that they have which is a crazy amount, not only through their own experience but them being around others who have experienced all that can just be soaked up which would help me. They talk about how they can help my game and help me to become ready for the NBA game and about how I would fit into the system and playing style, which is an NBA playing style, and they like to get up and down which is what I like to do, that is to get up and down and to play in space.
CE: It sounds like you have a good idea of how you want your recruitment to go but how do you want this all to play out over the long haul?
CH: Well, starting with the short-term, I’d like to have the coronavirus go away so that I can play my last little bit of AAU, and then, after that, I am probably going to start doing some boxing-like training so that I can get back into shape. There are no gyms open in Minnesota right now so staying in basketball shape isn’t going to be the same as just going on a three-mile run; it is just so much different. From there, I will probably start weight training but I still have to figure out the logistics of that. Then, go into high school basketball, have a great senior year, hopefully be able to take all five official visits next year, that is always hard though because after two or three, you kind of don’t want to do anymore because it gets to be a lot. I am going to watch a whole lot of basketball and pay attention to who leaves, stays and graduates, and then continue to listen to the coaches recruiting me and see what I like and where I fit in.
CE: So, you are thinking about having a spring commitment next year?
CH: Yeah, most likely it will be after the college season wraps up.
CE: Were you hoping you take any official visits this spring, that was until the coronavirus wiped things out?
CH: I didn’t have any officially set up but I was planning on doing some, especially since I had more free time compared to the high school season.
CE: Who were you trying to see? Anyone specifically?
CH: I don’t know exactly what schools it would have been but I definitely am going to try and see Memphis, UNC, and get out to Georgetown again. From there, I would have figured out next year later on.
CE: Lastly, what has this whole pandemic been like for you? This is supposed to be your final season on the travel circuit. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
CH: Yeah, this is supposed to be my last hoo-rah and it kind of just got dumped on. I tried to just go up to the park and play basketball because that gets my mind off everything but then my parents wouldn’t let me do that since there is state lockdown so I have to stay at home. I still go out to the back and shoot and we have some weights in the basement, I lift down there, but other than that, it is pretty much eat, sleep and play video games, just because there is really nothing else you can do.