Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs has played in numerous state championships in basketball and soccer, prestigious AAU tournaments and gold medal games for USA Basketball.
Even with those credentials, March Madness was a new experience.
“It’s something I’ve watched and looked forward to my whole life, so it was a little different,” Suggs said. “I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I just had to get rid of that first-game feeling and get used to the pace and being here in March.
“I learned some valuable things in that first game. Even though it was a great win (against Norfolk State) and it clicked for us, I learned some things that I’m going to work on and try to be ready for the game on Monday against Oklahoma.”
Suggs was limited to 18 minutes due to early foul trouble and finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists. It wasn’t his usual performance at all, but he said a solid team win “couldn’t take the smile off my face.”
Tomorrow will be special.#MarchMadness
— WillieGRamirez (@WillieGRamirez) March 21, 2021
Suggs was not in a smiling mood when asked about the disparity between men’s and women’s equipment.
“It’s unacceptable, I don’t think you can say it any other way,” said Suggs, who is a close friend of UConn player Paige Bueckers. “The way these women have worked all season to get to where they are now, the exact same work we’ve been doing, without having a weight room to try to improve, the nutrition is substandard, it’s not right.”
Suggs’ routine in the controlled environment of Indianapolis: eat breakfast, watch movies, relax, talk to family and friends, work out, watch a lot of TV and try to “clear your head. ”
There was one exception to the daily routine.
“The one desire I had was Chick-fil-A, that was all I wanted,” he said. “If I can have a little Chick-fil-A and sit and watch a little ‘Criminal Minds,’ that’s pretty much a perfect day.”
Head coach Mark Few was asked by an Oklahoma reporter about Gonzaga’s rise to national prominence. Few cited many factors, including continuity in the staff and athletic department, improved facilities and progress in recruiting.
Before giving his answer, Few couldn’t help but take a sideways glance. “First of all, you never should have let (former Zag) Domas Sabonis leave Oklahoma, I could have told you that.”
“No kidding,” the reporter responded.
Sabonis played one year with Oklahoma City before being traded to Indiana. He was a two-time All-Star.
Gonzaga junior Julian Strawther and Oklahoma junior Jalen Hill were teammates as juniors in Las Vegas.
Julian’s father, Lee, tweeted several photos of the two wearing the same jerseys from elementary school. Strawther, who hit three 3-point shots in Saturday’s win, played at Liberty High in Henderson, Nev. Hill was a standout at Clark High School in Las Vegas.