Chet Holmgren expects to hear his name called early during Thursday's NBA Draft. The former Minnehaha Academy star is expected to go either first overall to the Orlando Magic or second overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which would make him one of the highest-drafted Minnesota athletes of all time.
It'll cement Holmgren's name on an exclusive list of Minnesota-born athletes that have been drafted early by pro teams in different sports. Here's a look at some of the athletes who made the list and how their careers turned out.
NBA: Kevin McHale (3rd overall, 1980)
The Celtics struck gold when they drafted McHale, paving the way for a dynasty in the 80s. The Hibbing native was a seven-time All-Star, six-time All-Defensive Team, and a three-time NBA Champion during his career and is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 75th Anniversary team.
McHale has had some company in recent years, however, as Minneapolis' Jalen Suggs was drafted by the Magic with the fourth overall pick last year. We also shouldn't forget about Monticello native Joel Przybilla, who was selected ninth overall by the Houston Rockets in 2000, or Royce White, who went 16th to the Rockets in 2012.
Those names pale in comparison to the 1955 draft when two Minneapolis natives went in the top ten. Hibbing's Dick Garmaker went sixth overall to the Minneapolis Lakers and St. Paul native Johnny Horan went eighth to the Fort Wayne Pistons.
MLB: Joe Mauer (1st overall, 2000)
Mauer is one of two Minnesota athletes selected as a No. 1 overall pick, but it almost didn't happen. Mark Prior was crowned baseball's next big ace and the favorite to be selected with the first pick, but the Twins went with Mauer and the rest is history.
The St. Paul native went on to become the face of the Twins in the 2000s, leading them to six division titles. He also was a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, three-time Gold Glove winner and the first catcher in American League history to win a batting title, which he did three times.
In addition to Mauer, Minnesota has been well-represented in the top five of the draft. David Globig (Brewers, 1976), Paul Molitor (Brewers, 1977) and Max Meyer (Marlins, 2020) were all selected with the third overall pick while Dave Winfield was drafted in all four major sports but settled on joining the San Diego Padres after being selected fourth overall in 1973.
NHL: Erik Johnson (1st overall, 2006)
The 2006 draft was a big one for the State of Hockey with Johnson being selected with the top pick. The Bloomington native had a solid career, making his debut at 19 years old and playing 14 seasons with the Blues and Colorado Avalanche.
Two Minnesotans followed in the top 10 of that draft with St. Paul's Kyle Okposo going seventh overall to the New York Islanders and Bloomington's Peter Mueller going to the Phoenix Coyotes with the next pick.
Overall, there have been nine Minnesotans that have cracked the top 10 of the NHL draft. Blake Wheeler went fifth overall to the Winnipeg Jets in 2004 and Hall of Famer Phil Housley went sixth to the Buffalo Sabres in 1982. Doug Zmolek (7th overall, North Stars, 1989), Erik Rasmussen (7th overall, Sabres, 1996), Casey Middlestadt (8th overall, Sabres, 2017) and Brian Lee (9th overall, Senators, 2005) round out the list.
NFL: Trey Lance (3rd overall, 2021) and Larry Fitzgerald Jr. (3rd overall, 2004)
The NFL brings us our first tie on the list, but both of these players took different paths.
Fitzgerald was a top prospect coming out of the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield and went on to break almost every receiving record imaginable at Pittsburgh. After entering the NFL, Fitzgerald went on to have a 17-year career with the Cardinals and ranks second all time in receptions (1,432) and receiving yards (17,492), and sixth in receiving touchdowns (121).
Lance was a lesser-known recruit coming out of Marshall and was being recruited by the Gophers as a safety. Lance wound up going to North Dakota State to play quarterback and scored 42 total touchdowns with no interceptions during the 2019 championship season. He played sparingly during his rookie season in San Francisco but is expected to be the starter next season.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been three other Minnesotans to go in the top 10, including Steve Zabel (6th overall, Eagles, 1970), Terrell Suggs (10th overall, Ravens, 2003) and Jeff Siemon (10th overall, Vikings, 1972).
WNBA: Lindsay Whalen (4th overall, 2004) and Rachel Banham (4th overall, 2016)
Whalen and Banham parlayed legendary careers with the Gophers into first-round selections in the WNBA draft.
Whalen led the Gophers to the Final Four in 2004 and went on to become one of the greatest point guards, male or female, in basketball history. Part of a core that helped the Minnesota Lynx win four WNBA championships, Whalen will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
Banham also left her mark at Minnesota, finishing as the program's all-time leading scorer. Like Whalen, Banham spent the first few years of her career in Connecticut before being traded to the Lynx.
This record could fall in about a year, however, as Hopkins native Paige Bueckers is expected to be the top pick in the draft whenever she decides to go pro. It's just the latest example of how Minnesotans are thriving in college sports.