The two will be cheering each other on in their respective endeavors, as the pair of basketball stars are actually lifelong friends.
How Did Jalen Suggs & Paige Bueckers Meet?
Before they became nationally renowned college basketball superstars, Bueckers and Suggs grew up together in St. Paul, Minnesota.
They met at a young age through their common passion for basketball, according to ESPN. Suggs was playing on a team with a friend of Bueckers. She would come to practice and mimic the boys’ drills on her own hoop.
“She loved to be there,” Suggs told ESPN.
From there, the friendship blossomed as did their skills as basketball players competing in various AAU tournament games.
Incredibly, both Bueckers and Suggs played high school varsity basketball while in eighth grade. Bueckers played at Hopkins High while Suggs was dominating at Minnehaha Academy. Bueckers won three consecutive Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year awards, and Suggs won the same award in both football and basketball during his senior season, which occurred during the pandemic.
Between the two, they boast four state titles and two gold medals from Team USA Basketball.
Jalen Suggs & Paige Bueckers’ Friendship
When it came time for college, however, the two who led such a close path could not have chosen to attend schools farther apart.
Suggs took his talents to the West Coast and joined the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane, Washington, despite offers from Florida, Kansas and Iowa State, among others. Meanwhile, Bueckers headed to Storrs, Connecticut, to join the storied UConn Huskies women’s basketball team.
As a member of the Zags, Suggs led the men’s basketball team to a National Championship, playing as the starting point guard as a freshman. Gonzaga was defeated by Baylor in the championship game, but Suggs was a key cog for the team throughout the NCAA Tournament, hitting a huge buzzer beater to secure the win over UCLA in the Final Four and recording a double-double in the Elite Eight against USC.
Bueckers, on the other hand, racked up a plethora of accolades during her first season at UConn.
She averaged 20.8 points during March Madness, leading UConn to the Final Four where they were thwarted by Arizona. Bueckers became the first freshman to win the Associated Press’ Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year award. After being named best college athlete in women’s sports at the ESPYs, she delivered a powerful speech to celebrate and honor Black women.
The Minneapolis native isn’t eligible for the WNBA until 2023, but she’s on the fast track towards being a top pick in that year’s draft.
It’s truly special to see these two dominating in the sport they love after growing up supporting one another.