Jalen Suggs’ Minneapolis High School Retires His Basketball and Football Jerseys

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

MINNEAPOLIS - Not many can say that one of the best basketball or football players in their state’s history attended their high school.

Current students, as well as alumni, of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota can. Not only that, they can say that one of their own was one of the best at both of those sports.

The athlete they would be referring to is Jalen Suggs, now a guard for the Orlando Magic. 

On Thursday – with Suggs and his Magic in town to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night – Minnehaha held a ceremony ahead of its varsity basketball game to retire Suggs’ basketball and football jerseys. Joining Suggs to celebrate the occasion were family, friends, all his Magic teammates and coaches, other staff from the team’s travel party, former high school hoops teammate and current Oklahoma City Thunder center Chet Holmgren, and hundreds of his beloved supporters from the local community.

“A lot of great memories in this gym,” an appreciative Suggs said. “A lot of great games, practices. Family and friends all are here, and this night is above all of it. To have everybody come back, be here for me – it’s a product of everything they’ve done for me. Their love, their support, they’ve been with me every step of the way – (not just) as a basketball player, football player, but as a human. I got to come here every day and just be Jalen ... Just be me, and that’s how they treated me. It’s a special night.”

On the basketball court, where he’s now a pro, Suggs was so dynamic from the jump that he earned a spot on the varsity team as a seventh grader, which is permitted in Minnesota. He would ultimately go on to lead the Redhawks to state championships as a freshman, sophomore, and junior. Suggs was also spectacular in his senior season, being named a McDonald’s All-American, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state tournament that year to be cancelled. The Redhawks had just won another sectional title the day before the shutdown. 

On the football field, as a star quarterback and defensive back, he piloted the SMB Wolfpack – a cooperative program between three independent schools, including Minnehaha – to their first and only state championship in his junior campaign. The next year, with Suggs a senior, they made it back to the championship game, but lost to Rocori in a thriller. 

Also that year, he became the first athlete in Minnesota history to win the state’s Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football awards in the same season.

Not even three years have passed since he last suited up in a Minnehaha uniform, and yet the school decided now was the perfect time to honor the 21-year-old for all that he achieved in both sports.

“(He made a) huge impact, obviously,” Minnehaha Academy Athletic Director Josh Thurow said. “When I used to tell people that I work at Minnehaha Academy, they often times would ask me, ‘where’s that?’ Now when I say I work at Minnehaha Academy, they ask, ‘do you know Jalen Suggs?’ That’s the difference. That’s the impact of Jalen.”

Making Thursday's celebration even more fitting was that Minnehaha’s opponent on the hardwood was The Blake School, one of the schools Minnehaha teams with in football, with St. Paul Academy being the other.

Paolo Banchero knows a thing or two about starring in two sports simultaneously. He played quarterback for a season in addition to basketball at Seattle’s O’Dea High School before deciding to focus exclusively on basketball. 

Amazed at all of Suggs’ accomplishments and so incredibly happy for him, Banchero was thrilled to celebrate this occasion with him.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “Suggs is a great leader and a fierce competitor…(I have) a lot of respect for that man. To get your jersey retired, in not just one but two sports, is special.” 

Suggs’ parents, Larry Suggs and Molly Manley, could see the potential in Jalen very early on. Jalen became interested in sports at an extremely young age – 2 ½ years old according to his dad – and his advanced motor skills and ability to pick up athletic concepts quickly was glaring.  

From that point on, his passion for both basketball and football grew, and he was so dedicated that he and the teams he played on reached remarkable heights through all the hard work and commitment. 

Both his parents can still remember all the energy and excitement that surrounded Jalen’s teams, especially the ones in his later high school years.   

“It was really fun and really exciting,” his mom said. “His senior year was wild. Every game was packed – home or away. When he was younger, there were people and there was always a lot of support – but not like senior year. It was a fun ride. It was exciting and it was us spending a lot of time together in the gym.”

Following high school, Suggs went on to play a year of college basketball at Gonzaga before being selected fifth overall by the Magic in the 2021 NBA Draft.