New Magic players Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner introduced at Amway Center

New Magic players Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner introduced at Amway Center
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Jalen Suggs didn’t arrive at Amway Center until Friday, but he must have felt like he was already home Thursday night.

When his name was announced to an Amway crowd at a team-sponsored draft party as the Magic’s choice and No. 5 selection in the NBA Draft, the crowd went wild, and so did Magic guard R.J. Hampton.

“Things broke our way last night and we consider ourselves fortunate,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said.

Indeed they did, and Suggs was able to take in the moment via a FaceTime call from his good friend Hampton.

“I had to call my boy R.J. when I got backstage [at Barclays Center in Brooklyn] to see how happy the fans were and he was, knowing that I’m coming into a place that’s going to embrace me,” said Suggs, who was introduced along with the Magic’s No. 8 pick Franz Wagner at an Amway Center media conference Friday afternoon. “It’s the perfect feeling. To see all the videos of everybody in the arena yesterday chanting my name when the pick was called, to see how happy they were ... now hopefully they’ll bring a positive vibe, energy and good spirit in and hopefully they embrace me, as well.”

It was a crazy 24 hours both players had gone through, and both were quite happy to know where they would start their NBA careers.

Wagner, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Michigan, has a brother on the Magic roster in Mo Wagner, but he’s a free agent so he may not be with the team next season. Nonetheless, Franz Wagner is excited about his new beginning.

“I’m super excited ... dream come true,” said the German-born Wagner. “I put so much work and time into it and to see the family and friends afterward, that was the best part of the night.”

The Magic were projected by many experts to be leaning toward taking FSU forward Scottie Barnes, but once he was announced as the No. 4 pick to the Toronto Raptors, the Amway crowd went wild in anticipation of the Magic’s selection at No. 5. They figured Suggs, the star of a 31-1 Gonzaga team as a freshman a year ago, had fallen right into the Magic’s lap.

“A lot of emotion, excited, ready to get out here from the moment that I heard they were going to take me and then they called my name, I was just happy and excited to share that moment with my family and friends,” said Suggs, whose parents Molly Manley and Larry Suggs accompanied him to Orlando and were at Friday’s media conference.

Suggs became an NCAA Tournament darling last season when his buzzer-beating overtime 3-pointer defeated UCLA in a national semifinal and sent the Zags into the title game against Baylor. Suggs had 22 points in the national championship, but the Zags fell shorts as Baylor thwarted their unbeaten season.

Everywhere he’s been, Suggs has been a winner. He led his high school team to three straight Minnesota Class 2A state titles for Minnehaha in St. Paul, and he was also a football star and was named his home state’s Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football during his senior year, the first athlete to ever accomplish the double.

He was also named the National MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year in 2019.

Suggs, who averaged 14 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in his one season at Gonzaga, has known Hampton for quite a long time.

“Me and R.J. go way back, even to when we didn’t know each other and unknowingly played against each other down in Texas ... just great people, comes from a great family, all down to earth, genuine loving people,” Suggs said. “Now I have an opportunity ... things that we talked about. I remember sitting at Buffalo Wild Wings with USA basketball and R.J. We were sitting at the table watching the draft and we’re like, ‘Yo, this is going to be us in a couple years and how crazy it would be if we ended up on the same team?’

“Now it turned out that we’re here together, and hopefully locker roommates.”

Wagner is a versatile forward who takes pride in his ability to do many different things at his size. During his career at Michigan he averaged 12 points, six rebounds and two assists in 55 games.

“It’s completely different from college. Obviously an 82-game season is a different type of a beast than, what, 30-40 games,” Wagner said. “So just preparing your body for that and also just being mentally stable. There are a lot of ups and downs in a long season like that. It’s important to have family and friends support you.”

The 19-year-old Suggs and 20-year-old Wagner add more youth to what is already one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. The Magic currently have 11 players 25 years old or younger.

“I love it and it comes with expectations, being high picks like this,” Suggs said of him and Wagner. “I’m embracing it all, being here with a bunch of young guys. We’re hungry ... hungry to succeed and win and become better. Those are the kind of people I want to be around and I feel like we can create something special here with the group that we have.”

Weltman knows he has a team full of young players and he’s the kind of manager who does not like to push things or set timelines.

“I don’t like to ever put timetables on things,” Weltman said. “You’re looking at a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old and they’re going to come in and they’re going to work and be well-coached and we’re going to do things the right way and their timetable will unfold as it does.”

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