MORGANTOWN – Jalen Suggs … what can you say?
It all came together to push the undefeated Gonzaga past UCLA in extra time and battle Baylor for the NCAA title on Monday night.
It was, of course, one of the greatest Final Four games of all time, one of the greatest Final Four games of all time, and Suggs’ game winner, alongside Christian Laettner’s turnaround summer beater for Duke, was the biggest shot in the history of the NCAA tournament .
When he did, Miles “Deuce” McBride was watching somewhere, rest assured, and that’s not good news for the WVU.
See the point guard of mountaineer IS Jalen Suggs without the hype.
The block? We’ve all seen the number of times we’d come in from behind, never stop at a piece, and go upstairs and block a taller man’s shot.
The passport? How many quick breaks had McBride found the open man with perfect fodder?
The shot? Return to the game against # 10, Texas Tech. The WVU was in double digits and fought back behind McBride, who scored 15 points in the final with 6:55 and ended his 24-point night with a game winner six seconds ahead. Then he raced across the square and challenged Mike McClung’s last – second shot enough to miss.
Until Suggs flaunted his talents against UCLA, there was a sense of confidence that McBride could be back next year despite stepping into the NBA draft.
I’m not so sure now, especially since the beginning of this season there was an opportunity to compare them head to head, eyeball to eyeball, when WVU gave Gonzaga the toughest game until the UCLA cliffhanger and McBride played as well as Suggs .
Suggs had a chance to show his courage in the WVU game and sprain an ankle in the first half.
Here’s how ESPN’s online recap of the game described the situation:
“Suggs was in pain from the moment he went downstairs. He held a towel over his face and then continued to wince and writhed on the socially distant bench. Finally he got up and walked cautiously into the locker room but didn’t come back What the team called an injured left ankle. Somehow he made it back to the ground in the second as one of the catalysts of the comeback. “
Indeed he was. He finished the game with just four points on two of six shots from the field but had six rebounds, five assists, one block and three steals.
McBride didn’t have a good night of shooting in the Gonzaga game, where he scored 10 points on 4 of 14 but hit 2 of 4 from 3 point range, had five assists and no turnovers.
In a way, that game joined the two players on the waist … even though they were really there before they even got into college.
Everyone was a two-sport star, both playing basketball and soccer. Both were guards in basketball, quarterbacks in football and both were great prospects in both sports. McBride dreamed of playing quarterback in the state of Ohio as a kid and had the chance to break a bone in his foot towards the end of his junior year in Ohio, footballing power Archbishop Moeller High.
Suggs was the only person who ever held both Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football at the Minnehaha Academy in Minnesota.
All you have to do to understand how good McBride was at football is to look up his highlights on YouTube. The first game tells you everything you need to know. In the shotgun near the opponent’s goal line, the push button is low, McBride goes down and scoops him up on the short jump, just as Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, also from Moeller High, runs and runs to his left cuts inside he meets a defender who is able to lead the tackle at the goal line, goes into the air and rushes into the end zone to score the goal.
Game after game afterwards, he makes great throws, touches passes when necessary, threads the needle with a fastball when necessary, and starts and runs when nothing is there.
Suggs’ high school soccer highlight package amazingly starts with intercepting a pass to end an overtime game, then rushing to his sideline, climbing on the bench, and posing just as he hits the table of the Goalscorers climbed game winners against UCLA.
There are two pieces that tell you everything you need to know about Suggs, his athleticism, and his ability to play under pressure.
During every game, the ball is snapped over his head. He runs everyone down, the first one he picks up and runs about 80 yards for a touchdown, the second one he gets on the third ricochet crawls around a little and then throws a 40 yard touchdown pass.
Looking at the two players, McBride seems to be the more savvy passerby, Suggs the more savvy runner, but neither showed anything other than the ability to be a star in their second sport.
We mentioned earlier that Suggs has shown courage to return to the game against WVU. McBride’s comeback after his injury was also a bold profile.
“The TV people talked about his courage when we talked after the game and I asked them, ‘Have you ever been to Moeller High School? It’s part of the admission process. You don’t have the guts, they won’t let you in.” McBride once said.
And so we’ll see how it all develops. Of course, Suggs is a one-and-do player destined for NBA glory, but the question that arises from his size is whether McBride is cut of the same cloth and is now ready to put Suggs in the Join NBA.
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