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Quarterback on the Court

ORLANDO — Whenever Jalen Suggs grabs a defensive rebound, he goes through his progressions channeling his football instincts. The series of calculations needed to decipher the defensive coverage under center. First, he spins to look toward the opposite basket. Are any of his teammates ahead of the defense? If his oversized 6'10 near 250-pound wide receiver Paolo Banchero has his hand up, for example, that is an instant cue for the former dual-threat Minnehaha quarterback to heave the ball downfield for one of his favorite plays: Hail Mary Touchdown

"Just having fun with the game I think all that is. Trusting my guy down there". The third-year guard has fun pretending as if the connection between him and his receiver on the court is as lethal as the former Detroit Lions duo that gave defenses fits for years. "Matthew Stafford used to say 'Megatron down there somewhere.' For me it's, 'P's down there somewhere,'" said Jalen Suggs.

Suggs told no lies. Paolo has been his first read and primary option this season, peppering Banchero with 645 targets -- 215 of them resulting in a field-goal attempt on 40.9 percent shooting from the field. It is no coincidence. The roots of Suggs' ability to throw the ball with pristine precision downfield, with velocity and pinpoint accuracy, can be traced to his days as a football star. Suggs, a 6-foot-3 guard, is an exceptional outlet passer, and his teammates — mainly Franz Wagner have benefited from the third-year guard's ascension as an outlet passer on the fast break.

Alongside the duo of Wagner and Banchero sits Jalen Suggs who has recently taken over the starting point guard role from former number one overall pick Markelle Fultz. That decision was spearheaded by Suggs' ability to push the pace for an offense that struggles routinely in the half-court. He's looking for every chance he can get to initiate the fast-break where he seemingly makes the correct decision every time. In a three-on-one situation, he stares down his streaking teammate on the left before uncorking a behind-the-back pass to his other German target.

He loves to use his eyes as a weapon to manipulate defenses and shows no fear attacking zones and blitzes. He's stationed at the wing as he watches first-time All-Star Paolo Banchero get blitzed near the elbow. Suggs uses his vision to scan the defense off-ball. Once the ball is "hiked" to him instead of letting a long-range bomb rip off the catch, Suggs throws a dart in mid-air to the low post for an immediate paint touch resulting in a go-ahead score.

"When the defense switches everything, [Jalen Suggs] does a good job taking advantage of that," said Paolo Banchero. In the half-court, the third-year guard out of Gonzaga has sporadic moments of displaying a quarterback's touch on the ball. His off-ball processing speed operates at the level of hall-of-fame quarterbacks. Throughout his 164 games, Suggs has seen a variety of counters which have allowed him to manufacture faster counters to specific coverages.

The best passes are typically the ones with high degrees of difficulty. They come from a moment's instance, and require multiple viewings from multiple angles at multiple speeds to fully comprehend. They take fearlessness to attempt equipped with nerves of steel. They get you up off your feet, make you pay closer attention and, when successful, create a chorus of echoing cheers louder than your ears can handle. These are the combination of tools Jalen Suggs provides when he is on the floor. That moment could be lurking around any corner. Blink or leave your seat at your own risk.

The greatest quarterbacks in the world take chances that make them as unique as diamonds. They operate as their own entity looking for that "splashy" pass hunting the end-zone. Seeing the pass is one thing everyone can. Making the pass is another. Just because someone isn’t open right now doesn’t mean they aren’t about to be. The best passes create open teammates.

You'll often see players on the receiving end of Jalen Suggs touchdown passes raise their arms in the air to form the infamous TD signal when the duo connects. “He does so many things on every single possession. It electrifies not just the fans but the whole team,” said Franz Wagner. Great passers have a flair for theatrics. There’s flavor on the throws that keep everybody smiling. That's exactly what Suggs' on-court quarterback vision provides. Some added juice in transition to one of the worst half-court offenses in the league. Jalen Suggs has his passing touch and accuracy on speed-dial right now. You’re able to understand the way a player processes the game by the way that he passes the basketball. "He's the heart and soul," said Paolo Banchero.

Next time he's on the floor and grabs a defensive rebound, keep a lookout for his favorite play: Hail Mary Touchdown

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