You don’t have to look far for local connections to the men’s Final Four this weekend.
In Saturday’s first semifinal, Houston and forward Justin Gorham (Calvert Hall), who’s started every game this season for the second-seeded Cougars, will face top-seeded Baylor in Indianapolis. They’ll have at least one Ravens player rooting them on: Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser played basketball for two years at Houston before giving up the sport to focus on football.
If the Cougars advance, they’ll likely take on another team with another Ravens connection. Unbeaten and No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, which will battle No. 11 seed UCLA on Saturday night, has a handful of standouts, from mustachioed forward Drew Timme to sweet-shooting wing Corey Kispert to French import Joel Ayayi.
But no player has the NBA draft buzz (or familiar last name) of the Bulldogs’ star freshman guard, Jalen Suggs.
Suggs’ father is Larry Suggs, who is second cousins with former Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who lived in Jalen’s native Minnesota until moving to Arizona in the ninth grade. When Jalen was in fifth grade, Terrell reportedly helped Larry found Grassroots Sizzle, fronting him the money to start the basketball program. Jalen played years above his age level, and the program years later landed an Under Armour sponsorship.
Jalen Suggs went on to become one of the nation’s top basketball recruits — but he was a pretty good football player, too. As a senior, he was named Minnesota’s Mr. Football after passing for 2,213 yards and 25 touchdowns, rushing for 978 yards and 12 touchdowns and leading his high school team to a runner-up finish in the state playoffs. He also had nine interceptions on defense, returning two of them for touchdowns.
Terrell Suggs, strangely enough, was already familiar with that kind of dual-sport greatness in Minnesota. As a youth football player, he played center on offense. His quarterback was Joe Mauer, the 2001 Gatorade National Player of the Year in football. Mauer ultimately chose a career in baseball, where he became a six-time All-Star with the Minnesota Twins and the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player.
“It’s fascinating to see both of us and where we are today and where we were,” Suggs told Minneapolis’ Star Tribune ahead of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers. “Just two kids growing up playing together in St. Paul. Pretty amazing.”