The best player in high school basketball has made a decision.
Marvin Bagley III committed to the Duke Blue Devils on Monday night — announcing his college choice during the 11 p.m. edition of ESPN’s SportsCenter — and the nation’s No. 1 recruit also said that he is proceeding with plans to play college basketball this season and will move to the class of 2017.
He chose Duke over Southern Cal and UCLA, two other schools that hosted him recently for official visits. Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky were also on Bagley’s list of finalists, but the star recruit never took official visits to those campuses.
“The brotherhood there — that’s what Coach K preached to me and my family on my visit,” Bagley said. “I had a good feeling there ever since they first offered me a scholarship in the ninth grade. I’ve always liked Duke, it’s a special place, and you have to be special to be a part of it. I’m just blessed.”
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Bagley — a 6-foot-11 power forward from Arizona, now living in the Los Angeles area — had been the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2018 class going into the summer. He continued his dominance on the Nike circuit and word leaked out last month that his family was looking into reclassifying to 2017.
Those plans were confirmed Monday night, though Bagley will still need to be cleared academically by the NCAA to play this season.
Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader earlier in the day that Bagley would be the No. 1 player if he did indeed make the move to 2017, replacing previous top prospect DeAndre Ayton, an Arizona signee.
Bagley’s commitment gives Duke its first No. 1-ranked signee since Jahlil Okafor three years ago.
“He has all the tools,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader this summer. “The physical gifts are there. He has really good size for the position. He’s mobile. He’s versatile. He’s athletic. He can score the ball pretty much any way you want a power forward to score the ball. He can step out and make threes. He can face up guys and drive it. He can score on the block. He’s a terrific rebounder. Defensively, he competes. He rebounds. He contests shots.”
Bagley averaged 25.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocked shots per game on the Nike circuit this spring and summer. His father, Marvin Bagley Jr., was a sports star at Durham High School, and the player’s grandmother still lives there.
Duke already had the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class — second only to Kentucky — before Bagley’s announcement, and Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Monday that he was not yet sure if a Bagley commitment would vault the Blue Devils past UK for the No. 1 spot in the Scout.com rankings.
Rivals.com and ESPN moved Duke’s class to No. 1 in their rankings, replacing UK.
Whatever the final class ranking, Duke is getting the possible No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft in Bagley, who joins two fellow top-10 recruits, point guard Trevon Duval and power forward Wendell Carter, as well as five-star shooting guard Gary Trent Jr.
Senior guard Grayson Allen will be the Blue Devils’ top returning player, and next season’s roster will also include former five-star center Marques Bolden.
Bagley’s move to the class of 2017 leaves 7-foot-3 forward Bol Bol as the only frontcourt player in the 2018 class with a UK scholarship offer. Southern Cal and Arizona are considered the current front-runners for Bol, though he said last month that he hopes to take an official visit to Kentucky before making a decision.
The Wildcats are also actively recruiting Canadian forward Simi Shittu — a 6-8 prospect playing his high school ball for Vermont Academy — and Shittu might be the next player from the class of 2018 to receive a UK offer.