So, my gut reaction after watching Tempe (Ariz.) Corona del Sol freshman center Marvin Bagley play for the first time?
The 6-foot-10½-inch Bagley has to be the most physically gifted big man we’ve seen in high school basketball in years, if not decades. The recruiting services agree; he’s been ranked as the No. 1 freshman in the country and he’s already received an offer from the University of Arizona.
I wanted to see if the reality matched the hype. It didn’t. Bagley was even better than I imagined.
It wasn’t just the numbers he put up in Corona’s 84-70 victory over Philadelphia’s Imhotep High in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mesa Mountain View High School, although those were extraordinary for a 15-year-old: 20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
It’s the way he played. Twice Bagley pulled down a rebound at one end, dribbled the length of the court and drove inside for a lay-up. He played within Corona’s team concept, rarely forcing shots but asserting himself when needed. He has a smooth turnaround jumper and he can finish with either hand. On defense he’s a human eraser; Corona can funnel everything inside because of Bagley’s presence.
I only saw two negatives in Bagley’s game, and they’re both easily correctable. He needs to get stronger to establish himself in the post; that will come over time as he develops physically. He also has to quit getting caught up in some of the tactics opponents will use to frustrate him. Imhotep’s big men pulled on Bagley, elbowed him and shoved him and there were times when Bagley responded in kind; at one point officials had to separate Bagley from an Imhotep player before things got out of control.
To Bagley’s credit, he never let his frustration or anger linger. But as good as he is – and as big as he is – he has to expect similar tactics from every team Corona plays.
The scary thing: Bagley only will get better. He’s already one of the top 10 players in the state. By the end of his high school career, he might be one of the best players Arizona has ever produced.