While Zion Williamson has been generating the buzz this season by turning every one of his games into a YouTube highlight reel, fellow class of 2018 basketball recruit Marvin Bagley has continued to prove himself as the best high school junior in the country.
Bagley — a 6-foot-11 power forward from Arizona — has led Sierra Canyon (Calif.) to a 25-1 record and the No. 2 spot in the USA Today national rankings a year after he was forced to sit out his entire sophomore season after transferring from a prep school in Arizona. He’s averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Scout.com has had Bagley as the No. 1 player in the 2018 class since the recruiting service first started ranking that group, and national analyst Evan Daniels watched him play a few days ago at the Nike Extravaganza in California.
In one game at that event, Bagley scored 43 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, breaking Shabazz Muhammad’s previous scoring record for the showcase and leading Sierra Canyon to a 98-72 victory over Bishop Gorman (Nev.).
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“It was as dominant of a performance as I’ve seen this season,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “Guys were moving out of his way when he was driving to the rim because they were fearful of getting dunked on. And it’s not just his athleticism. He can score on the block. He can score facing the rim. He can rebound. He protects the rim.
“He’s always been really good in terms of being able to score the ball in a number of ways. And he’s always had good size and athleticism and all of that. But I think his game is just starting to round out. He’s getting more confident with the moves he makes. It’s coming a little easier to him than it used to. … He’s just more polished.”
Bagley also remains the No. 1 junior in the 247Sports composite rankings — Williamson, a 6-7 forward from South Carolina, is No. 2 on that list and No. 2 in the Scout.com rankings — and Bagley has already narrowed his list of schools to Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon.
Although he’s down to six schools, it remains unclear whether there’s a favorite (or favorites) in his recruitment. Expect John Calipari and the UK coaching staff to be regulars at his games on the Nike circuit once that league starts in April.
“He’s been pretty clear in saying that he’s not really paying a lot of attention to the recruiting process right now,” Daniels said. “I couldn’t point to a school and say, ‘That’s where he’s going.’ I think it’s a little too early for that right now. But he obviously has narrowed things down some, and I think we’ll probably know a little more about his recruitment come summer.”
UK’s top two remaining targets in the class of 2017 — Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox — are both set to take the final official visits of their recruitments this month.
Knox — a 6-9 forward from Tampa, Fla. — will be at North Carolina this weekend after previous official visits to UK, Duke and Florida State. The 247Sports Crystal Ball currently has Duke as the favorite for Knox with 82 percent of the predictions.
Bamba — a 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y. — will be on Duke’s campus starting Feb. 26. He has already taken official visits to UK, Michigan and Texas, and the Wildcats are the new favorites on his Crystal Ball page with 63 percent of the predictions.
It’s possible that both players will hold off on a college decision until after the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 29. Bamba and Knox — both top-10 players — will be teammates with UK commitments Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington at that event.
Five-star point guard Trae Young will announce his college decision at 1 p.m. Thursday, but Kentucky won’t be the choice. UK, which made Young its top point guard target for 2017 with an early offer a couple of years ago, hasn’t had any recent contact with the 6-2 prospect after signing point guards Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the fall.
Young — a Norman, Okla., native — has apparently narrowed his list to Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, with the Jayhawks and Sooners considered co-favorites.
Kentucky Lake Showcase
UK signee PJ Washington will play two games at Marshall County High School on Friday and Saturday as part of the first-ever Kentucky Lake Showcase.
The event will also feature Arizona signee DeAndre Ayton, Duke signee Gary Trent Jr. and Xavier signee Paul Scruggs.
The full schedule and ticket info can be found at TheGrindSession.com.