The little moments helped Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner make Orlando Magic

Jalen Suggs will always be known for his buzzer-beating half-court shot in the NCAA Tournament. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs will always be known for his buzzer-beating half-court shot in the NCAA Tournament. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

Jalen Suggs will always have one of the greatest shots in NCAA Tournament history to his name.

The bravery and audacity to demand the ball as a freshman in overtime in the Final Four after a made basket and quickly run up the floor, get to half court and throw up a prayer? It takes something special to shoot with confidence in that spot.

It was not luck that Jalen Suggs’ shot went in and sent the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs to the national championship game. That kind of confidence is something every team wants. Especially when it comes in a player with that size and the humility to understand how to manage a game.

"“I just understand the work that I put in,” Suggs said during his introductory press conference Friday. “That’s what I pride myself in, coming in every day to the facility whether that is at Gonzaga or at home and just getting better. Doing that coupled with my confidence, I want the ball in my hands in big-time moments making big plays. I think the work that I put in, my teammates trust me to do so.”"

If there is a reason everyone believes Suggs can be a special player, it is moments like these. Big moments that define a player’s legacy and define what a player can do. Everyone knows Suggs can step up in these big moments.

For Suggs though, it is not about that big moment that told him he would be ready for the NBA or that he belonged on the stage. It was about the little moments behind the scenes that gave him confidence.

Jalen Suggs has already had some big moments on the basketball floor. But it is the little moments that built them that built him and will continue to drive him and Franz Wagner.

If fans are looking for a reason to believe why a player like Jalen Suggs, along with eighth overall pick Franz Wagner, are the right players to help this team rebuild and grow, it is in this answer to when they knew they would be NBA players.

After playing for big programs like Gonzaga and Michigan, they pointed to what goes on behind the scenes that prepared them for the stage rather than the stage itself.

"“I feel like it’s a multitude of a bunch of different moments,” Suggs said during the team’s press conference Friday. “Working in the gym, perfecting my craft and starting to feel myself become better every day. Then performing in the games, in big moments, making big-time plays. I think all those coupled up helped me and just opened my eyes to the opportunity to sit in this chair very real and turn it into a reality.”"

"“For me, there’ snot that one moment,” Wagner said during the team’s press conference Friday. “You keep working every day and keep the mindset every day and don’t look too much into the future, good things usually happen. I try to improve myself every day and do my best every day. That’s when good things happen for you.”"

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman noted throughout the draft process the team was as focused as finding the right person as they were the right player. They wanted players who would be hard-working and have a high character.

That may sound like lip service. And Weltman has long had a desire to move away from buzz words like “culture” or the like. But that is truly what the team is building.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Every move the Magic have made since the trade deadline has focused on re-establishing and regrowing that culture and doing it in a certain way. It may have led the Magic to shy away from flashier players or options, but they believe it will ultimately build them into becoming a winner.

During the press conference, you could see new coach Jamahl Mosley sitting quietly and nodding and smiling in approval. Coaches like players who take these big moments to celebrate but not rest on their laurels. They are always projecting and thinking of ways to make the team better.

Certainly, the Magic are still getting to know their new coach. But he laid out the foundations he wanted to build during his introductory press conference. He wants a team that exemplifies the qualities the Magic believe they brought in Thursday.

"“You talk about the play on the court: Selfless, hard-working, competitive, basketball IQ, that’s what we’re representing,” Mosley said during the team’s introductory press conference Friday. “That’s what falls in line with this locker room. You see how together they are. Jalen talking about R.J. There is an ability for them to connect and stay connected. That’s why I’m smiling and nodding because that’s the start of it right there.”"

Camaraderie will only go so far, of course. Being friends off the court is no guarantee for meshing well on it. But it is a good start for a young group that wants to compete and push each other.

Hampton and Suggs are friends from playing against each other in Texas and with each other for the United States at the 2018 U17 World Cup where they won gold together in Argentina. Hampton brought plenty of energy FaceTiming with Suggs from the Amway Center floor with fans cheering behind him.

Hampton was sitting in the second row next to Suggs’ parents during Friday’s press conference.

Cole Anthony was also at the Draft in New York cheering his team on — along with childhood friend James Bouknight, who went to the Charlotte Hornets, among others. He was among the players who had already reached out to congratulate and introduce themselves to the team.

Franz Wagner may already have some familiarity with what to expect from the franchise thanks to his brother, Moritz Wagner, playing the last few weeks with the team.

Yes, talent matters. And the front office seemed as excited as fans were that a player of Suggs’ caliber landed to them. But drafting a player like Wagner confirmed the exact kind of person and player the Magic wanted.

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Wagner was fairly unheralded for most of the draft process because he did not seem to have the star potential the Magic needed. With Suggs in tow, Wagner suddenly becomes a high floor player that can do whatever is needed for the team.

But everyone believes his work ethic and his skills defensively will make him a valuable player immediately.

Both Wagner and Suggs believe their play in college will help them be prepared for the NBA. Franz Wagner noted his coach, Juwan Howard, had Michigan playing fast and playing a lot of defensive coverages that NBA teams would play.

Suggs noted too that Gonzaga emphasized playing fast in the same way an NBA team would.

Just like everything else, every little bit adds up to the whole. That is what the Magic are hoping to do in this foundational season. It will be a year to lay the bricks and build up those moments to get to the bigger moments.

Suggs and Wagner will feel the weight of expectations that comes with being among the top picks in a celebrated draft. But they are eager to work again.

"“It comes with expectations of being high picks like this,” Suggs said during the press conference Friday. “I’m embracing it all. Being with a bunch of young guys who are hungry to succeed, to win and to get better. Those are the people you want to be around. I feel like we can create something special here with the group that we have. I can’t wait to get to work with everybody.”"

It is the same thing these players have done their entire careers to get to this moment. Most of that work happens behind the scenes. But the results speak for themselves.

Next. Magic's outlook is strong. dark

They hope it will continue to speak loudly soon.