It was awkward, it was drawn out, and it was anticlimactic, but during a late-night SportsCenter appearance on Monday night, Marvin Bagley III announced that he would play college basketball this season, and that he would be suiting up for Duke.
Bagley, who wisely wore a nonpartisan orange—not blue, cardinal, or gold—tie underneath a gray suit Monday, is from Arizona, and played basketball last season at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, California. But the draw of Duke, its history, program, coaches, and teammates, proved too strong for the West Coast draws of USC or UCLA, his other two finalists.
Though Bagley’s college of choice is no longer in question, the ripple effect of his decision will be felt for the rest of the offseason and into his NBA future. Let’s dive into the aftershocks.
What Say You, NCAA?
Bagley affirmed that he is trying to graduate early from Sierra Canyon, and has already submitted his papers to reclassify. All the NCAA has to do is approve his request, which, given Bagley’s confidence on national television Monday that he will be playing in college this season, seems like a done deal. Jontay Porter, brother of Michael Porter Jr., another highly touted prospect, just reclassified as well to join his brother in Missouri on Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers team this season. Reclassifying is having a moment, and it’s hard to blame Bagley for buying in. High school basketball is a hill he’s already conquered.
College Basketball Just Got a Consensus Title Favorite
Duke’s cup was running over in talent already with the no. 1 recruiting class in the nation featuring three five-star players. With the addition of Bagley, a fourth five-star, the rich have gotten richer, once again. Bagley is undoubtedly a different kind of versatile boost to a frontcourt that already boasted a high-ranking freshman in Wendall Carter and a talented sophomore in Marques Bolden. Now, with Bagley, Mike Krzyzewski will get to bring one of his stars off the bench. It will be impossible for college basketball fans and pundits not to place Duke at the top of this season’s preseason rankings. With great additions come great expectations, and it’s hard to say that anything less than a title would be satisfying for the Blue Devils.
Duke Will Be Fun, but Could There Be Chemistry Issues?
The Crazies at Cameron Indoor will undoubtedly thrive off Bagley’s energy, his high-flying dunks, and his silky transition game. But it won’t be smooth sailing right away. Bagley is an all-around talent that you don’t refuse, but he’s also not going to help Duke’s spacing on the floor for their talented guards and ball handlers. This is college, but there’s still only one ball, and Coach K is going to have many scoring appetites to satisfy. Maybe he should give Coach Cal a call.
Duke will undoubtedly spend a large part of its nonconference schedule figuring out the kinks, and trying several different lineups that will cleanly incorporate Bagley into its already-stacked rotation. Can Bagley play the 3 and give Duke the opportunity to go big? Could he play the 4 and push one of the other projected starters to the bench? What if Duke goes small with Bagley at the 5? Who will be the ever-present Duke glue guy? Can Grayson Allen handle being a 3? And, of course, can Trevon Duval become the point guard Coach K and Co. don’t have but desperately need? Push will come to shove at some point in the season, and Coach K may have to figure out not just what to do with Bagley, but what kind of game he wants his team to really be playing.
The Class of 2018 Gets Another Star, and the NBA Rejoices
With Bagley joining the fray, a loaded draft class just got even more loaded. For more on each of the prospects, including their strengths, weaknesses, and eye-opening highlights, go read Kevin O’Connor. But it cannot be stressed enough: The 2018 draft will be so top-heavy that it will likely warp the landscape of the NBA. With guys like Bagley, Porter, Luka Doncic, and DeAndre Ayton (all of whom have been touted since their early high school days) available, don’t be surprised if you see NBA teams start tanking earlier than usual. Let the race to the bottom (or the top) begin.
An earlier version of this piece misidentified Trevon Duval as Trent Duval.