UK Men's Basketball

Bagley is ‘head and shoulders’ the best in basketball class of 2018

No. 1 basketball recruit in 2018 class talks from Peach Jam

Top UK target Marvin Bagley talks about the Wildcats, his recruitment and possibly skipping college altogether.
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Top UK target Marvin Bagley talks about the Wildcats, his recruitment and possibly skipping college altogether.

The recruiting class of 2018 isn’t looking like an especially talented group of basketball prospects.

Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels has said that it’s shaping up as one of the worst classes he’s evaluated over the past several years, but there’s one recruit who has clearly risen to the top.

“At this point, Marvin Bagley is head and shoulders the top prospect in the class of 2018, and I really don’t think that he’s even being pushed right now,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “It’s evident and it’s clear. At 6-foot-10, he’s the full package at the power forward spot. He can score with his back to the rim, facing the rim. He has high-level athleticism. He defends. He can really rebound. He can block shots.

“He’s easily the best player in that class right now.”

Bagley maintains that status — he’s held it for a while — despite missing nearly all of his sophomore season of high school due to a couple of transfers in a matter of months. First, the Arizona native moved to the new Hillcrest Prep in his home state, where he was ready to play alongside top 2017 recruit DeAndre Ayton. When Bagley and his family expressed concerns over the academic situation at Hillcrest, they moved to Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, Calif.

As a result, Bagley was ineligible to play this past season.

“It was the hardest year, not being able to play. Because I love the game so much,” he said. “And me sitting down and watching and seeing it right in front of my face and not being able to get in and play, it hurt a little bit. But I’m over it. We got past it, and I’m looking forward to next season.”

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Before that, he’ll finish out his summer-league schedule with the Phoenix Phamily.

Bagley was the only player from the class of 2018 to average a double-double (20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game) during regular-season play on the Nike circuit and, he has carried over that impressive play to this week’s Peach Jam finals.

He said it took him only a couple of games to get back in the swing of things this spring after a full high school season spent watching from the bench.

“There wasn’t a drop off,” Daniels said. “He just kept it up. You can tell — even though he wasn’t playing high school ball — that he continued to work in the gym and was getting after it.”

Bagley is also making progress with his recruitment.

He surprisingly cut his list to six schools several weeks ago, making the early decision to pare things down before he started getting calls from every major college coach in the country.

UK, Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Oregon and UCLA are the programs still in the mix for Bagley, who says he’s not planning to make a final decision any time soon.

“I didn’t really want to have all the schools trying to talk to me and all that,” he said. “I talked to my family about it, and it was just the best move for me. I’m glad I did it.”

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Bagley has already taken recruiting visits to Arizona, Arizona State, Duke and UCLA, and he’s looking forward to adding UK to that list. He talked about watching former Wildcats star Anthony Davis and trying to take things from his game, and mentioned the program’s recent history of getting young players to the NBA quickly.

“Kentucky is a great organization,” he said. “A lot of guys went there and made it to where I want to go. … I want to get out there and see the school. It’s a great program that speaks for itself.”

Daniels said he doesn’t think that a favorite has emerged in Bagley’s recruitment just yet. Six college coaches will be waiting to see what’s next for the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in the 2018 class.

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“I’ll be curious to see how quickly he moves forward now,” Daniels said. “I think, to a degree, it’s a mature decision to narrow down your list and get it to a working number. He obviously could go anywhere he wants. He can go anywhere in the country. With cutting his list, he’s not wasting a lot of guys’ time.

“He’s got it to who he wants to consider, and he’s going to go from there.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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