Fueled by its exciting young core, the 21-16 Orlando Magic has been one of the pleasant surprises of this NBA season. The team sits in eighth place in a crowded Eastern Conference, which is just a half game out of the fourth spot. Orlando is on pace for its best season since posting a 52-30 record in 2010-11.
Crucial to Orlando’s success is third-year guard Jalen Suggs, who was taken fifth overall in the 2021 draft. Suggs has started all 33 of the games he’s played and is averaging a career-best 13.7 points per contest, shooting 46.4% from the field and 40.3% from 3-point range.
The former Gonzaga Bulldog is averaging 19.4 points so far in January, and he tallied 51 points in a two-game stretch last week. He scored 24 points in a double-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 3, and followed that with a career-high 27 points in the Magic’s Jan. 5 road victory over the defending-champion Denver Nuggets.
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 4, 2024
After the Denver game, Suggs shared that he had been struggling with his mental health, and he identified deepening his faith in God as one of the things he has been focusing on to help keep him in a good place mentally.
“I had a little dip for a second, for a couple days, to be honest — with fatigue and with the demand of the season, expectations, and continually trying to get better and all that,” he said. “I think a lot of it goes just to the work I’ve done spiritually and mentally.”
Moments later in his postgame press conference, Suggs gave God the glory for the growth he’s experienced.
“I’ve done a lot of work to really improve my mental health,” he said. “I think I’d be wrong to not give a lot of credit to Jesus Christ and the work I’ve done with Him.”
His comments on mental heath drew lots of attention, and Suggs quote-tweeted a video from that press conference, along with Deuteronomy 31:8.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” he wrote. “You’re never as alone along your journey as you feel! Live present, celebrate little wins, and enjoy ALL life has to offer!”
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”Deuteronomy 31:8
You’re never as alone along your journey as you feel! Live present, celebrate little wins, and enjoy ALL life has to offer!🤲🏽 https://t.co/4u8rSJubic
— Jalen Suggs (@jalensuggs) January 6, 2024
The 22-year-old often quotes Scripture in his Instagram captions as well, including his most recent post at the end of December.
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Suggs has already made more 3-pointers in 33 games than he did in either of his first two seasons as a pro. The growth of Suggs and the team’s other young stars has the Magic in position to end a three-year playoff drought and potentially win a postseason series for the first time since 2010.
Before being drafted by Orlando, Suggs helped lead Gonzaga to a 31-1 record and a trip to the Final Four during the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season. Suggs said on the “Faith on the Field” show in 2021 that his faith in God was vital to him navigating all the challenges his one year in college provided.
“I think just being faithful, being confident and strong-minded and being rooted into being myself and my relationship with God helped me through all of it,” he said. “Again, it was a challenging year. I’d be the first one to say it, and I went through many ups and downs, but my relationship with God got me through it, honestly.”
Suggs averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists in 48 games as a rookie, but dipped to 9.9 points and 2.9 assists in 53 games (only 19 starts) last season. He is currently fourth on the team in scoring and first in steals at 1.48 per game.
Monday’s loss to the Timberwolves snapped a two-game winning streak for the Magic, which begins a four-game road trip when the team visits the Miami Heat on Friday.
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