He barely played any high school basketball at all this past season, but Marvin Bagley is still considered the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018.
Bagley — a 6-foot-10 forward from Tempe, Ariz. — transferred to the start-up Hillcrest Prep last fall. The plan was for the sophomore to play a national schedule at Hillcrest. His brother was also on the roster. His father was the associate head coach. And one of his teammates was fellow No. 1 recruit DeAndre Ayton.
That plan didn’t work out.
The NCAA raised questions about the academics surrounding the basketball program early in the school year, and the elder Bagley pulled his sons out of the school in mid-November.
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Ayton — the top-ranked player in the class of 2017 — stayed, but his recruitment has become curious in recent weeks, and he said Friday night that Kansas is the only school currently pursuing him despite his status as a can’t-miss NBA prospect.
Bagley’s move should keep his future eligibility intact, but it meant sitting out practically all of his sophomore season, a year after being named the national freshman of the year by MaxPreps.com.
“It was hard,” he said over the weekend at the Nike event in Indianapolis. “It was hard sitting down, watching and not being able to play the game I love. But I got through it, and I’m just here right now trying to give my all every time I step on the court.”
Bagley was in Indianapolis with his Phoenix Phamily travel team. He’s averaging 19.1 points and 9.7 rebounds through seven games on the Nike tour.
College coaches obviously didn’t get a chance to watch Bagley play during the high school season, so he was a main attraction over the weekend at an event that also included most of the top recruits in the more immediate class of 2017.
UK’s John Calipari took some time out from watching those 2017 recruits to check in on Bagley. Several other big-name coaches did the same.
Bagley already has scholarship offers from UK, Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, Louisville and several others, but, for now, he’s not concentrating on any of that. There are no favorites in his recruitment, he says, and the main focus is playing out this summer and getting back on the court as a high schooler next season.
Bagley is now a student at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, Calif.
“I’m not really worried about putting one school in front of another,” he said of recruiting. “I’m just trying to focus on right now.”
Making the grade?
ESPN ranks Atlanta post player Wendell Carter as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2017.
Carter told reporters at the Nike event in Indianapolis that three schools are recruiting him the hardest: Kentucky, Duke and Harvard. He also said he’s serious about academics and that would play an important part in his decision.
He then went on to break down each school.
“Harvard, of course, great academic school.”
“Duke, of course, great academic school.”
“And Kentucky, I mean, it speaks for itself.”
A reporter asked what UK has specifically been selling from an academic standpoint.
Carter hesitated, then laughed: “I don’t know how to answer that,” he said. “Of course, they’re a great basketball school. They’re not the worst academic school ever. They’re still up there in terms of academics.”
A shot to improve
UK recruiting target Hamidou Diallo is generally regarded as the No. 1 shooting guard in the class of 2017. Problem is, he’s not that great of a shooter.
Diallo, who picked up scholarship offers from Kentucky and Duke last week, excels at pretty much everything else. He can get to the basket at will, possesses freakish athleticism and has all the tools to be a tremendous perimeter defender.
Through two sessions of Nike EYBL play, the Queens, N.Y., native is among the top five scorers on the circuit with 20.3 points per game. However, he’s only made five of 22 three-point attempts (that’s 22.7 percent).
Still, 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer says there’s reason for hope, and the word is that Diallo has been making progress as an outside shooter (small sample size in the Nike games notwithstanding).
“It sounds like his shooting is improving, and I would expect that to happen,” Meyer told the Herald-Leader. “I think it’s much easier to improve as a shooter than a lot of other areas. If a guy can’t dribble, he’s probably never going to dribble. If he can’t pass, he’s probably never going to be able to pass.
“But you do see guys dramatically improve as shooters.”
Name to remember
247Sports ranks Ikey Obiagu as the No. 1 center and No. 8 overall prospect in the class of 2017.
A 7-footer from Nigeria, he attends Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy in Georgia and is already seen as a next-level post defender.
“He projects as a freakish NBA shot blocker. That’s how good of a shot blocker he is,” 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer told the Herald-Leader. “He’s extremely athletic, he’s 7-feet tall and it’s a long 7 feet. He has a really nice build. He’s not some skinny waif of a 7-footer. He really has a physical presence.
“He loves to block shots — has an instinct for it and the desire for it — so that right there makes him a special prospect.”
John Calipari and UK’s assistant coaches have watched Obiagu play, though he told the Herald-Leader on Saturday that the Wildcats had not yet contacted him about his recruitment, adding that he would like to hear from them.
He listed Baylor, California, Kansas, Texas, UConn and Louisville as the schools recruiting him the hardest right now and said he’s in no hurry to make a college decision.
“Right now, I’m just having fun with it,” he said. “I would say I’m chilling with it.”
ESPN released its final player rankings for the class of 2016 on Tuesday morning, and all five UK signees are considered five-star prospects.
North Carolina post player Bam Adebayo is the highest future Wildcat on ESPN’s board at No. 5 overall. He was followed by point guard De’Aaron Fox (No. 6), shooting guard Malik Monk (No. 9), small forward Wenyen Gabriel (No. 14) and power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (No. 24).
The Cats’ top remaining target, Texas center Marques Bolden, is ranked as the No. 16 player in the class. There is still no date for his college announcement.
Duke signee Harry Giles is ranked No. 1.