14-year old phenom Marvin Bagley III loaded with scholarship offers
Marvin Bagley III turned 14 in March. He picked up his first college basketball scholarship offer in April from Northern Arizona.
Three days after finishing the seventh grade last month, the 6-foot-8, 185-pound forward had another, from Arizona State, walking distance from his home, where, on fall Saturday nights, he can tell how the football team is doing by the sound of fireworks set off after Sun Devils touchdowns.
Scholarship offers soon followed from the University of San Francisco and Creighton.
This is heady stuff for a kid who has yet to decide on a high school, much less a college, and who like most kids his age likes to play video games, hang out with friends and play music.
It's the kind of stuff that causes eyes to roll — until you see the highlight tape that has him looking like LeBron James next to kids his age who come up to his chest, putting down dunks, floating in soft jumpers with his left hand, making darting moves and passes in the lane with the ease and grace of a polished point guard.
"A lot of times you won't believe what is on highlights," said Sundance Wicks, a former Division I college basketball player and coach who trains players, including Bagley, in the Arizona Power Basketball Academy three times a week at Gilbert Christian. "I mean, a lot of times you get people who won't believe the hype.
"But when you get to watch him go against (2013, 6-11 center) Maurice Kirby, who is going to Virginia Tech, and (2014, 6-9 forward at Tempe Corona del Sol High) Connor MacDougall, who is going to ASU, he belongs. When he's in there doing stuff at a very cerebral rate of a senior in high school or a guy going into college, he is advanced beyond his years. That's all you can say."
Bagley doesn't play on his junior high team.
"If he did, he'd score a hundred points," said John Ortega, who runs the Arizona Power Basketball Academy.
Bagley plays on the Power's 16-and-under AAU team that features 6-6 wing Dane Kuiper, who moved this spring from Alaska, where he was one of that state's top high school players, and will be a junior at two-time defending Division I state champion Tempe Corona del Sol.
"I get roughed up a little bit, but I think it helps me a lot when I play my age group," said Bagley, whose favorite NBA player is Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. "I like playing up."
While his game has taken off, getting him ranked as the top 2018 player in the country by some recruiting services, Bagley's head hasn't.
He is taking the hype, the scholarship offers, the national attention, all in stride.
"He is the type of kid who doesn't pay too much attention to it," said his father, Marvin Jr. "It's in the papers, on TV or on the Internet. You're going to see it. I try to explain to him, the same way someone tells you how good you are, the next day they can tell you how bad you are. So you can't let that make you who you are. What you do determines who you are. He's a pretty down-to-earth kid."
Bagley, who earned a 4.0 grade-point average during the 2012-13 school year at South Valley Prep and Arts School, a charter school, turned down a Memorial weekend basketball trip with the Power so he can spend the holiday with his family.
"I don't think about it," Bagley said about the hype surrounding his whirlwind ride in club channels. "Whenever I step on the court, I try to just focus on getting better. I don't worry about all of the extra stuff. It will come with hard work."
Bagley said his little brother Marcus, a 5-10 point guard who just finished fifth grade, is better than him.
"We play one on one once in a while," Marvin said. "He beats me sometimes. It makes him better. It makes me better. I think he's better than me. He has more tools than I had in the fifth grade."
Bagley's athletic bloodlines make it even more tempting for college coaches to offer him now.
His father was a 6-5 wide receiver at North Carolina A&T State and played Arena football for the Arizona Rattlers in 1998, which is when he met his wife, the daughter of legendary ASU basketball player Joe Caldwell.
Jumpin' Joe Caldwell, a fixture at Sun Devils games, has told people around ASU about his grandson.
"If the bloodlines are correct, then maybe you have to look at it," the 71-year-old Caldwell said. "In the seventh grade, I was dunking with two hands. He has springs."
But he never got a college scholarship offer when he was a seventh-grader in Los Angeles.
"It's amazing to me," Caldwell said. "In the seventh grade and to get a scholarship offer, you never heard of it."
Former ASU guard Kyle Dodd, an instructor for the Power Basketball Academy, first heard about Bagley last season when Dodd was doing radio color commentary during an ASU game and Caldwell approached him.
"I remember at a game, he was talking about how you've got to see his grandson play, and you kind of go, 'OK,' and just think it's because it's his grandson, but when you see him play, you go, 'OK, wow, now I see what he's talking about.' " Dodd said.
The young Bagley knows about his grandfather's rich basketball legacy, how the 6-5 lefty could jump out of the gym and was the second overall NBA draft pick in 1964, how he won an Olympic gold medal and played in NBA and ABA All-Star Games.
Caldwell broke his left hand playing football as a youth. He said it was a blessing in disquise, because it forced him to play with his right hand. Now Bagley is doing the same, after recently suffering a broken left wrist. Shortly after the injury, Bagley was in the gym shooting with his right hand.
"I tell him to do the best you can, to stay focused, stay healthy and live a healthy life," he said.
Two days after ASU coach Herb Sendek gave Bagley a scholarship offer, Marvin Jr., took his son to the University of Arizona in Tucson to meet coach Sean Miller. They left with no scholarship offer, but, "They gave us good feedback," Marvin Jr., said.
"They made it clear they will be following him and monitoring his development," the elder Bagley said.
Offers to middle-schoolers are unusual but not unheard of.
Late in Lute Olson's coaching career at UA, he offered point guard Matt Carlino a scholarship when he was in the seventh grade.
Carlino ended up leaving high school early, committed to Indiana, signed with UCLA, then transferred to Brigham Young University, where he averaged nearly 12 points last season as a sophomore.
Ryan Boatright, a point guard from Aurora, Ill., got a scholarship offer from USC when he was 14. He committed to the Trojans in the eighth grade, before deciding to sign with Connecticut his senior year in high school. Last season as a sophomore, the 6-foot Boatright averaged 15.4 points and 36 minutes a game for the Huskies.
"(USC) saw a skill set at an early age that he was going to be that type of player," Wicks said.
"And he's panned out. I think it's going to be that way with Marvin. It's no question for Marvin. Now it's a matter of his body maturing the right way.
"He's a great kid who comes from a great family. It's going to be fun watching him develop through the years."
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