Memo to Neil MacDonald: The Calvary isn’t coming.
If the head basketball coach at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe had any thoughts about being able to welcome home Marvin Bagley III, he can forget about them and resign himself to getting his wins this season the hard way.
With Bagley in the line-up last year as a freshman, the Aztecs were an unstoppable power that beat every in-state opponent they faced. The 6’11” center that dominates under the rim and also runs the floor like a guard is the top college prospect in the Class of 2018.
He announced plans to leave Corona at summer’s end, transferred to an in-state program, and now ESPN reported over the weekend that Bagley has now enrolled at Sierra Canyon High School in California. Adding Bagley to the line-up will give the California basketball power one of the most talented line-ups in the prep game.
There’s no way of knowing whether Bagley would have even been cleared to play this season by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, but that didn’t mean MacDonald wasn’t keeping a candle in the window, holding on to a fading ray of hope.
And lately he has probably been looking for some sign the clouds would soon be lifting from a program that has won the last four Division I state championships, but has lost five of its last seven games and has started this season with a 6-6 record. Last year, the Aztecs finished 33-1.
Ironically, that lone loss that blemished the 2014-15 schedule was to…you guessed it, Sierra Canyon.
The program was under the direction of Sam Duane Jr. when it set an Arizona high school record by winning four straight state titles. MacDonald moved up from his seat on the bench as an assistant when Duane stepped away from the game after 12 years at Corona.
Bagley was a key ingredient in a high-profile roster of D-I prospects that claimed a fourth straight title last season, but not the only talent that didn’t return this season. The team graduated two of the best prep players in the state in 6’7″ wing Dane Kuiper and 6’5″ forward Cassius Peat.
MacDonald had expected to have Bagley back on the floor, along with junior point guard Alex Barcello, last year’s Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year. But Bagley transferred to Hillcrest Academy, a new school in the Phoenix area that had plans to be a national prep academy on the level of the well-known Findlay Prep, a basketball factory in Las Vegas.
Just a few games into the season, Bagley left the program and began home schooling while deciding where to land next. His family said they picked Sierra Canyon for its academic programs, but it isn’t just coincidence that the school’s basketball program is 9-1 and ranked No. 13 in the nation going into the holiday break.
If he is cleared to play this season by the California Interscholastic Federation, the multi-talented sophomore will join a front court that already includes two ESPN 60 college prospects and one of the better back courts in the country. That would likely turn the California school into a favorite to finish atop the national polls this season.
And that’s something MacDonald and Corona del Sol couldn’t offer.