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How Chet Holmgren's Return Will Boost Gonzaga's Chances of Winning the NCAA Tournament

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The 7-foot-1 freshman phenom is back from injury and ready to dominate the college basketball scene.

Chet Holmgren isn't your average basketball player. Standing at 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, he possesses silky shooting, impressive dribbling, ferocious rim protection, and versatile defense. His size, skill, and athleticism draw comparisons to NBA stars like Durant, Davis, and Porzingis.

Holmgren's rookie season was sidelined by a foot injury, robbing him of 11 months of play. He suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right foot in a pro-am game in Seattle after being drafted second overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Missing the entire 2022-23 season, he joins the list of high draft picks like Embiid, Simmons, and Griffin, who also lost their first year due to injuries.

Now, Holmgren returns to the court, making his debut in the NBA Summer League. Showcasing his game-changing abilities, he reminds everyone why he was one of the most hyped prospects. In this article, we'll explore Holmgren's background, injury recovery, skill set, leadership, chemistry with teammates, and projection for the upcoming season.

Who is Chet Holmgren?

Chet Holmgren was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 1st, 2002. He attended Minnehaha Academy, where he forged a formidable partnership with Jalen Suggs, another renowned Gonzaga standout and NBA lottery selection. Holmgren propelled his high school team to an impressive four consecutive state championships and garnered prestigious accolades such as the Naismith Prep Player of the Year and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2021.

He committed to Gonzaga in April 2021, choosing the Bulldogs over other offers from Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Georgetown. He was ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the nation by ESPN and 247Sports.

In his remarkable tenure at Gonzaga, Holmgren displayed exceptional prowess, averaging an impressive 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, and 2.8 assists per game. With remarkable finesse, he boasted a remarkable shooting accuracy of 61.6% from the field and a remarkable 37.5% from beyond the arc. His extraordinary contributions propelled the Bulldogs to their second-ever appearance in the national championship game, though they ultimately succumbed to Baylor's formidable challenge.

He garnered widespread acclaim as a consensus second-team All-American, claiming numerous prestigious accolades. Among his esteemed achievements are the coveted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award for the best center, the esteemed Karl Malone Award for the top power forward, the illustrious NABC Defensive Player of the Year Award for his exceptional defensive skills, and the revered WCC Defensive Player of the Year Award.

He declared for the NBA draft after his freshman year and was selected by the Thunder with the second pick behind Cade Cunningham.

The Setback He Faced and How He Recovered

Holmgren's injury occurred on August 21st, 2021 while playing in The CrawSover Pro-Am in Seattle. He was guarding LeBron James one-on-one when he appeared to step awkwardly on his right foot. He left the game and did not return.

The Thunder made an official declaration, revealing that Holmgren had endured a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, rendering him unable to participate in the entire 2022-23 season. A Lisfranc injury, characterized by a fracture or dislocation in the midfoot region where multiple bones and ligaments intersect, induces profound agony, swelling, instability, and functional impairment.

Holmgren underwent surgery on August 30th at Forte Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in Carmel, Indiana. The procedure was successful and he began his rehabilitation process.

What Makes Him Stand Out On The Court?

Holmgren's skill set is unlike any other player in the NBA. He has the height and length of a center but the skills and mobility of a guard. He can score from anywhere on the floor with his smooth shooting stroke and range. He can handle the ball like a point guard and create shots for himself or others with his passing vision and creativity. He can protect the rim with his timing and instincts as a shot-blocker. He can defend multiple positions with his lateral quickness and agility.

Some of his strengths include:

  1. Shooting: Holmgren exhibits a seamless and unwavering shooting technique that empowers him to effortlessly convert shots from all areas of the court. Whether stationed outside the perimeter or pulling up from mid-range, he demonstrates finesse and precision. Moreover, he showcases his shooting prowess while in motion, either dribbling or maneuvering through screens, maintaining equilibrium and accuracy. With an elevated release point, his shot becomes a formidable challenge to defend. At Gonzaga, he boasted a remarkable 37.5% three-point shooting accuracy and an impressive 80.6% free-throw percentage.
  2. Passing: Holmgren's passing abilities are truly outstanding, surpassing expectations for someone of his size and position. His court vision is exceptional, always spotting open teammates with precision. Whether in fast breaks, half-court sets, or post plays, his passes are accurate and perfectly timed. With his impressive ball-handling skills, he takes charge as a point forward, executing pick-and-rolls and hand-offs with finesse. During his tenure at Gonzaga, he averaged 2.8 assists per game, demonstrating his playmaking ability while maintaining an amazing 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
  3. Ball-handling: Despite his size and position, Holmgren exhibits remarkable ball-handling capabilities. He confidently maneuvers with both hands, seamlessly changing directions to create space or penetrate towards the rim. His arsenal of moves, including crossovers, spins, and behind-the-back dribbles, consistently confound defenders. Notably, he thrives under pressure, exhibiting composure and control while effectively protecting possession. Despite a high usage rate, he managed to limit turnovers to a mere 1.6 per game during his time at Gonzaga.
  4. Defense: Holmgren's defensive prowess makes him a formidable force on both ends of the court. His shot-blocking ability is unrivaled, with the capacity to nullify attempts at the rim or on the perimeter due to his exceptional length and timing. At Gonzaga, he averaged an impressive 3.7 blocks per game, securing a fourth-place national ranking and setting a school record. His defensive rating of 78.7 was unmatched nationwide, highlighting his impact in preventing opponents from scoring. Additionally, his lateral quickness and agility allow him to seamlessly guard players of various positions, utilizing active hands and nimble footwork to impede their progress, contest shots, and create turnovers.

Some of his areas for improvement include:

  1. Strength: Holmgren's primary weakness lies in his lack of physical strength and bulk. Weighing merely 195 pounds, he faces challenges against larger and stronger opponents, particularly in the post and rebounding situations. He can encounter difficulties when finishing through contact or drawing fouls near the rim. To thrive in the physically demanding NBA environment, he should focus on augmenting his muscle mass and overall weight.
  2. Consistency: Holmgren's consistency can exhibit fluctuations from game to game, or even within quarters. There are instances where he may fade away on offense or settle for challenging shots instead of aggressively attacking the basket. On the defensive end, he can lose focus or become frustrated, especially when faced with foul trouble or missed opportunities. Enhancing his mental fortitude and confidence will be key to consistently delivering high-level performances.
  3. Experience: Compared to other players in his draft class or those already in the NBA, Holmgren's experience is relatively limited. Having played only one season at Gonzaga, he primarily competed against weaker adversaries in the WCC conference. Additionally, missing his entire rookie season in the NBA due to injury deprived him of valuable playing time and the opportunity to learn from coaches and teammates. To bridge the experience gap, he must expedite his development and adapt to the pace and style of the NBA game.

How His Performance and Influence Changed After His Injury

Holmgren's unfortunate injury thwarted direct comparisons of his statistical prowess and overall impact before and after the incident, given his absence from official NBA encounters. Nonetheless, his recent exhibition in the Summer League instills promising indications of a triumphant convalescence, coupled with the retention of his exceptional skill set.

Throughout his tenure in Las Vegas, Holmgren astounded with an awe-inspiring average of 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 assists per game. Exhibiting commendable accuracy, shooting at an impressive 48% from the field and a formidable 36% from beyond the arc, he emphatically emphasized his offensive versatility. Notably, his inaugural contest against the Pistons produced a prodigious triple-double, amassing a staggering 18 points, 14 rebounds, and an impressive 10 blocks.

Startlingly, Holmgren displayed no discernible signs of languor or trepidation on the hardwood. Instead, his movements exuded an elegant fluidity and an explosive dynamism, unequivocally underscoring his multi-faceted abilities. His ethereal shooting touch, adeptness in dispensing precise passes, dexterity in handling the ball, and his enviable prowess in safeguarding the realm of defense were all on full display, irrefutably cementing his stature as an illustrious prospect.

Moreover, Holmgren's relentless pursuit of perfection yielded striking improvements across various facets of his game. His augmented physical strength and heightened assertiveness, acquired through unyielding dedication to rehabilitation, facilitated his unwavering capacity to absorb and counteract adversarial contact, culminating in resolute finishes at the rim. Evidencing his newly fortified offensive mindset, he opted for fearless drives towards the basket, shunning complacency and averting reliance on jump shots, thereby translating into a substantial upswing in free throw attempts (averaging 6 per game in Las Vegas). Furthermore, his decision-making acumen evinced remarkable growth, as he deftly minimized turnovers, averaging an astonishingly paltry 1 per game.

It is of paramount importance to acknowledge the inherent limitations associated with the Summer League, as its predictive efficacy concerning a player's regular season performance remains constrained by the marked disparities in both the caliber of competition and the fervency of play, relative to the NBA. As Holmgren's odyssey progresses, he shall inevitably confront increasingly onerous challenges and grapple with heightened expectations, as he squares off against seasoned veterans and the foremost luminaries within the league, in games of utmost import.

Nevertheless, buoyed by his current trajectory, Holmgren stands as an embodiment of boundless potential, poised to ascend the echelons of NBA stardom, all while serving as a foundational cornerstone within the Thunder's meticulous rebuilding endeavor.

His Leadership Qualities On and Off The Court

Holmgren, a true force to be reckoned with, exhibits an array of remarkable attributes. Not only does he possess an undeniable talent on the court, but he also boasts an innate ability to inspire and motivate his fellow teammates, making him an exceptional leader. His exceptional basketball IQ and unwavering dedication serve as a guiding light for those around him, positioning him as a role model worthy of admiration. Furthermore, his vocal and optimistic leadership style is characterized by effective communication and unwavering support for his comrades.

During his time at Gonzaga, Holmgren unveiled his exceptional leadership qualities, assuming a central role in both offensive and defensive strategies. Always eager to embrace the most challenging tasks and shine in critical moments, he showcased a remarkable combination of maturity and humility by accepting his role and willingly sharing the spotlight with his teammates, most notably his close friend and fellow star, Jalen Suggs.

The Summer League also provided a stage for Holmgren to demonstrate his exemplary leadership skills, where he emerged as the embodiment of the Thunder's promising young core. His unwavering engagement and active involvement from the bench, coupled with his uplifting cheers and valuable feedback, exemplified his dedication to his teammates. Taking charge on the court, he masterfully directed the team's offensive maneuvers and adeptly organized the defense. With a captivating blend of confidence and charm, he engaged effortlessly with the media and fans, leaving a lasting impression.

Holmgren's exceptional character and unrivaled mastery of the game position him as a genuine luminary in the realm of the NBA, commanding authority both within the court's confines and beyond. As the Thunder's franchise endeavors to chart a new course following the departure of several luminaries, his remarkable capabilities empower him to shape the atmosphere and instill a culture synonymous with unparalleled greatness.

A Projection Of How He Will Perform In The Upcoming Season

Holmgren's projection for the upcoming season proves enigmatic, given his absence from official NBA games thus far. However, with his impressive display in the Summer League and his innate potential as a player, the possibility of an extraordinary season looms large.

Anticipations speculate that he could establish an average of approximately 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists per game, showcasing a shooting efficiency of roughly 50% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Notably, he stands as a strong contender for the coveted Rookie of the Year accolade, navigating the competitive landscape alongside fellow rising stars such as Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes, Josh Giddey, Alperen Sengun, Davion Mitchell, Franz Wagner, Jonathan Kuminga, James Bouknight, and Ziaire Williams.

Moreover, Holmgren possesses the potential to propel the Thunder towards an improved record, transcending the prior season's standing of 22-50. However, prevailing circumstances within the fiercely competitive Western Conference render playoff aspirations an improbable endeavor. Nonetheless, his emergence shines brightly as a harbinger of the Thunder's promising future, united with the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Theo Maledon, Aleksej Pokusevski, Lu Dort, and their wealth of draft picks.

Still, the inaugural NBA season poses an array of challenges and obstacles that Holmgren must confront:

  1. Acclimating to the unparalleled speed, physicality, and intensity characteristic of the NBA game, exacerbated by his year-long hiatus due to injury.
  2. Navigating the weighty burden and expectations that accompany being a high draft selection and serving as a franchise cornerstone for a team in the throes of rebuilding.
  3. Engaging in relentless battles against seasoned adversaries, determined to exploit his vulnerabilities and test the boundaries of his abilities.
  4. Striking a delicate equilibrium between personal growth and team triumph, as he endeavors to carve out his role within the Thunder's system and foster a harmonious culture.
  5. Preserving his well-being and averting any setbacks or complications arising from his foot injury, thus maintaining his physical fortitude.

Triumphing over these trials necessitates the convergence of Holmgren's natural talent, unwavering work ethic, indomitable leadership, and resilient mindset. Additionally, he must rely upon the guidance and unwavering support of his coaches, teammates, and his cherished network of family and friends.

In conclusion, Chet Holmgren's triumphant resurgence from injury serves as an immense catalyst for Gonzaga's prospects in conquering the NCAA tournament, rendering him an extraordinary player to behold for a multitude of compelling reasons.

He epitomizes unparalleled uniqueness and unwavering versatility, showcasing an arsenal of abilities that elevate him above his peers. His capacity to seamlessly convert baskets from every nook and cranny of the court, deftly distribute the ball with the poise of a seasoned point guard, exhibit ball-handling finesse akin to a graceful wing player, swat shots with the commanding authority of a dominant center, and tenaciously defend like a lockdown stalwart is truly unparalleled. Moreover, his inherent adaptability empowers him to seamlessly assume any position and gracefully undertake any role dictated by the ever-changing tides of the game, while his imposing physicality, unyielding finesse, and awe-inspiring athleticism enable him to assert his unequivocal dominance on both ends of the hardwood.

Beyond the realm of on-court prowess, Holmgren emanates a natural charisma and exudes an indomitable leadership aura that captivates and galvanizes his teammates. His unparalleled basketball acumen and unwavering work ethic stand as a resplendent beacon of emulation for his peers, solidifying his indelible mark as an unparalleled paragon of inspiration. Moreover, his resounding vocal presence and unwavering positivity foster a realm of effective communication and unwavering encouragement among his esteemed comrades. Unperturbed by the most daunting of challenges, he readily embraces arduous assignments and thrives in the crucible of clutch moments, exemplifying a remarkable combination of unswerving maturity and resplendent humility by embracing his designated role and readily sharing the illustrious limelight with his esteemed teammates.

Holmgren's affable and approachable nature endears him to all fortunate enough to cross his path. As an undeniably consummate team player, he effortlessly assimilates into any system, seamlessly adapting to an array of contrasting styles of play with unparalleled grace. Additionally, his magnetic personality and playfully nuanced humor captivate the hearts and minds of fans and media alike, effortlessly captivating their collective consciousness with his irrepressible charm. Whether actively engaged on the hallowed hardwood, offering unwavering support and sagacious feedback to his esteemed teammates, or exhibiting a commanding presence replete with consummate confidence and unrivaled charisma during interactions with the media and adoring fans, he consistently radiates an aura of unassailable self-assuredness and irrepressible wit.

The resplendent resurgence of Chet Holmgren following his triumphant recovery from injury signifies his unequivocal readiness to dominate the panoramic collegiate basketball landscape. His extraordinary talent, innate capacity for unwavering leadership, and genuine likability synergistically converge, rendering him an exceptional player to keenly observe. Guided by his unparalleled prowess, Gonzaga stands poised to triumphantly seize their first-ever national championship in the storied annals of the venerable institution.

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