Chet Holmgren, who spent one college season at Gonzaga after a standout high school career at Minnehaha Academy, was the second choice in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The 7-foot center, whose all-around game includes deadly three-point shooting and point guard level ball handling, was chosen by the Oklahoma City Thunder one pick after the Orlando Magic made Duke freshman forward Paolo Banchero the No. 1 overall choice.
Holmgren is the highest drafted Minnesotan in NBA history; Hibbing's Kevin McHale, a Gophers forward, was No. 3 overall in 1980.
"It's a mix of emotions, probably a thousand emotions, all good ones," Holmgren said. "I don't really have words to describe them, but I'm so blessed and grateful to be able to be here. I'm ready to compete. I'm ready to go play."
There had been the possibility of Holmgren reuniting with high school teammate and good friend Jalen Suggs, who was the fifth overall pick last season and had a strong rookie year with the Magic.
Instead, Orlando went with the 6-10 Banchero, the ACC rookie of the year. Holmgren was next, with Oklahoma City banking on his unique "unicorn" status as a player whose position isn't easily defined. At 195 pounds, he'll need to get stronger, but his defense and shot blocking are strengths.
"It will be special to share the court with Jalen again," Holmgren said. "Obviously, we won't be wearing the same jersey, but to share the court with him would be special and to compete with him."
Another Minnesotan, David Roddy, was the 23rd overall pick, by Philadelphia, but will go to Memphis in a trade. The former Breck standout is a 6-6 forward who played at Colorado State.
Holmgren is the highest-drafted Gonzaga player in program history. An AP second-team All-America, he averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds and ranked fourth nationally with 3.7 blocks per game for the Zags. He shot 61% from two-point range and 39% from three-point range last season — the kind of efficiency that could help a Thunder team that ranked last in the league in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and scoring last season.
He will join a young core that includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and Tre Mann. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 points last season.
"Coming from a smaller place like Spokane and Gonzaga, it reminds me, like the Oklahoma fan base and community, it me reminds me a lot of Gonzaga, our community," Holmgren said. "Super rowdy fans that are diehard for their organization. I'm proud to represent them."
The Thunder hope Holmgren eventually can help them regain some of the glory from the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook era. The Thunder went to the Western Conference Finals four times with that duo and the NBA Finals once. The Thunder has not won a playoff series since Durant left and has missed the playoffs the past two seasons. They went 24-58 last season.
The rebuilding Houston Rockets landed 6-10 Auburn forward Jabari Smith, an elite shooter, with the third choice. The Sacramento Kings followed by taking Iowa's 6-8 wing Keegan Murray.
Another Big Ten player, Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, rounded out the top five at Barclays Center. The son of Notre Dame's women's basketball coach Niele Ivey was taken by the Detroit Pistons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.