September 2021: The Chet Holmgren Story

Chet Holmgren, a kid from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the potential #1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He stands at 7’1 with a 7’5 plus wingspan, he’s the best rim protecting prospect since Anthony Davis, he can grab a rebound and put the ball on the deck, coast to coast, with handles like a guard, and can shoot the ball from 30 feet from the basket.

This is the story of Chet Holmgren, the best NBA Draft Prospect in the world.

Chet has not always been a consensus top 10 player in his high school class like some other top picks such as Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson, and Cade Cunningham. When Chet began his basketball journey in the 3rd grade, he was an extremely uncoordinated kid. His 3rd grade coach was Larry Suggs, the father of current Orlando Magic Point Guard, Jalen Suggs. Yes, interestingly enough Jalen and Chet were teammates since they were just 10 years old. 

Larry said the first time Chet showed up to his practice, “He showed up in cargo shorts, he wasn’t very tall for his age at that time, and he frankly was NOT a good player.” But Suggs also said, “He tried very hard” and “it was interesting to see him still hanging in there with such a talented group of kids.”

Chet recalled that in his first years playing basketball he would only sub into games if his team was up by 30 points with a few minutes left.

But according to Larry Suggs, Chet was an incredible listener. Suggs taught Chet the fundamentals of shooting the ball from the perimeter at an early age and because Chet wasn’t abnormally tall yet, he also developed his ball handling. 

But while Chet hadn’t hit a growth spurt quite yet, everybody close to him knew that his father, David Holmgren, was a 7 foot tall former Division 1 basketball player at the University of Minnesota. 

In the year before he entered high school Chet hit a massive growth spurt of 8 inches. All of a sudden he was a 6’9 freshman in high school who was running off flare screens and knocking down triples at the varsity level for Minnehaha academy.

In his Freshman year he and teammate Jalen Suggs led Minnehaha to a state championship. Chet continued to grow and was a true 7 footer by his sophomore year, where he and Jalen led Minnehaha to their second straight Minnesota 3A state title.

Despite this early success, Chet was still ranked outside the top 60 players in that 2021 class.

This was until the summer of 2019, where he went off in the AAU circuit. He won MVP of the Under Armor Association tournament and went viral for crossing up Steph Curry at his select camp. D1 offers flooded in. 

That summer Chet went from the 61st ranked to the 4th ranked player in 247sports recruiting rankings. 

He kept that play going into his Junior season where he helped lead Minnehaha to a 25-3 record and a nationally televised win over Bronny James and Sierra Canyon. 

Chet’s senior season was no different. He absolutely dominated, playing for Minnehaha Academy without Jalen Suggs for the first time since 3rd grade. Minnehaha won another Minnesota state title and Chet rose to #1 in the class of 2021 rankings. Finally, shortly after this title, he made his commitment to play at Gonzaga following in the footsteps of Jalen Suggs.

August 2021: The Unbelievable Origin Story of Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic went from a kid in a small village in Bosnia to an NBA center, all because his Father sent 15 grown men to the hospital in a fight. 

At this point in his career, Jusuf Nurkic has solidified himself as one of the best starting centers in the NBA when healthy. Before the past 2 seasons, where he battled injuries, Nurkic was averaging about 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. 

Nurkic is simply a monster on the interior. He stands at 6'11 and 290 pounds. With a frame like that, it is natural to wonder whose genes were passed down to this dominant  NBA center. As it turns out, Nurkic's father plays a massive, and quite peculiar role, in Nurkic's journey to the NBA.

Jusuf was a 5'10 14 year old growing up in Bosnia. He was a part of a working class family and never had picked up a basketball in his life. Many kids today that are on the track to become NBA players are already playing year round against elite level AAU competition by the time they're 14 years old. 

Jusuf was a normal sized 14 year old kid with zero basketball experience. Based on that alone, you wouldn't think he was a future NBA player. But his Dad, Hariz Nurkic, is one of the  largest men on the planet, standing at an astounding 7 feet tall and weighing 420 pounds.

Hariz was a cop in Nurkic's hometown of Tuzla, Bosnia. One day, while on the job, he ended up in a 15 person fight. There was a large brawl going on and it was Hariz’s job to put an end to it. But Hariz didn't just break up the fight, he ended up joining it. By the end of this fight, all 14 of the other men were allegedly sent to the hospital by Hariz.

This story seems like it could be exaggerated or even just blatantly false. But Jusuf has actually confirmed this story to be true, and the story has to hold some truth, because a Bosnian reporter wrote about this very fight in a newspaper at the time. 

This newspaper story circulated enough to reach the attention of a baskeball agent named Enes Trnovcevic. After hearing this story, Trnovcevic dropped everything and traveled to meet Hariz to ask him one thing... whether or not he had any sons.

It was then that Hariz introduced him to his 14 year old Jusuf. 

Jusuf says he remembers meeting Trnovcevic saying, ”He looked at me, and I was normal sized, but he said, ‘That kid is going to be in the NBA." Enes took Jusuf under his wing, brought him to Slovenia, and Jusuf started playing basketball at the youth level. 

At the age of 17 Nurkic played in a Nike International Junior Tournament in Belgrade, which is when he first started gaining attention from international scouts. He had grown almost a foot, close to his current 6'11 height, and quickly developed an advanced post-up game. 

In October of 2012, Nurkic signed with the Croatian team, Cedevita Zagreb. 

6 years after Enes Trnocovic took him under his wing, in 2014, Nurkic was taken in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets.

Hariz Nurkic, a 7 foot tall cop from a small town in Bosnia beating up 14 men in a fight, is the reason why Jusuf Nurkic is in the NBA today.