When you’re rated as the No. 1 high school prospect in your recruiting class, and you’re still a freshman, how much room is there for improvement?
Evidently, Marvin Bagley III feels there’s enough to make it worth leaving his Corona del Sol High School team behind and transfer to a new school that is built around basketball.
According to today’s article in The Arizona Republic, Bagley is taking his considerable talents to Hillcrest Academy “with the hopes of raising his game to another level.” His younger brother has enrolled at Hillcrest, which plans to be a national basketball academy on the level of the well-known Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, and his father has joined the coaching staff there.
But Marvin, who has been rated by more than one recruiting service as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018, had expressed his intent to stay at Corona del Sol, where he led the Aztecs to their fourth straight Division I state championship last season. Now Corona will have to re-load with a new coach and a roster greatly diminished with the graduation of two of the best prep players in the state, 6’7″ wing Dane Kuiper, and 6’5″ forward Cassius Peat. Kuiper will be playing basketball at University of New Mexico this year and Peat accepted a football scholarship to Michigan State.
Corona’s first-year head coach Neil MacDonald, who was on staff the last two years and elevated to head coach with the departure of Sam Duane Jr., takes over this year and was counting heavily on returnees Bagley and point guard Alex Barcello, who was named the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year last year as a sophomore.
The 6’10” Bagley, that rare form of big man who can also run the floor and handle the ball like a guard, was the Arizona Republic Player of the Year last season and led Corona to a 33-1 record and a place in the state record books by becoming the first team in 54 years to win four straight titles. They dominated the entire season; their only loss was to Sierra Canyon, one of the top teams in California, and that was by just one point.
In the state title game against Desert Vista High School, Bagley had 16 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocked shots in a game that was essentially over by halftime when the Aztecs went into the locker room with a 31-13 lead. He averaged a double-double for the year: 19.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
With Bagley and Barcello returning, and senior Tyrell Henderson, a 6’3″ D-I commit, joining Barcello in the back court, Corona had to be considered the favorite to repeat for yet another state championship.
Now, with Bagley’s simple announcement on twitter last night, that has all changed. And it could get worse.
Barcello, the team’s second-highest scorer last season behind Bagley, may now also be reconsidering his commitment to the Aztecs, deciding to follow Bagley out the door.
Which leaves MacDonald, as he gets ready for his debut season, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
(Photo by Jim Willites)