UA loses out; Marvin Bagley III picks Duke basketball


Arizona has just made a major contribution to the Duke basketball program.  And one of the state’s Pac-12 programs is the loser in the deal.

Marvin Bagley III, who played at both Corona del Sol High School in Tempe and at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, announced last night that he has finally made his college choice after keeping the University of Arizona on his short list for months.

The decision to go with Duke means the Blue Devils will be getting the player considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class.  But they’ll be getting him sooner than expected if Bagley wins an appeal to the NCAA to be re-classified to this year’s recruiting class after skipping his senior year.  That would put him on the floor for the 2017-18 season.

He’ll know what the NCAA rules in the next week or so, after the college governing body finishes reviewing his grades and transcripts from three different high schools he attended.  Most analysts expect him to get the approval.

For Duke, adding him to the 2017 class would confirm with authority its selection as having the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.  It’s called having an embarrassment of riches.

It would have also done the same for Arizona, which has a top-three class even without Bagley.

Last night’s much-anticipated announcement by Bagley, made late last night on ESPN’s Sports Center, closes the door on what was a long shot for the Arizona program.  Early on in the recruiting process, however, Bagley had expressed a definite interest in the Wildcat program and there was always the possibility he could swing that way as it came down to the wire.

His short list still included Arizona, along with Duke, USC, UCLA, Kentucky, and Kansas.  He had made campus visits to Duke, USC, and UCLA and had the other three scheduled for the near future before pulling the trigger last night.

The 6’10, 220-pound forward that can run the floor and handle the ball like a guard spent his freshman year playing for Corona del Sol, helping that school to its fourth straight big-school state championship. He was named the Arizona Republic Player of the Year after that 2014-15 season.  Then he spent a year at the Hillcrest basketball academy to be able to test his game against national competition before transferring again, this time to a California school.

Had he picked UofA for what will be a very short college career, he would be joining the player he just bumped from the top of the recruiting class. DeAndre Ayton was the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2017 before Bagley re-classified; Ayton committed to the Wildcat program last September.

That would have been a line-up made in heaven, with two No. 1 recruits and top NBA draft picks on the floor at the same time.

Ayton also attended Hillcrest Prep, playing there for his senior season.  Arizona head coach Sean Miller was able to win that recruiting war, snatching the 7-footer from the jaws of Kansas and Kentucky, which were also on the final short list.

Regardless of where Bagley had decided to land, it’s no secret he won’t be there for more than one season.  He’s already projected by many analysts to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, should he play at Duke this season. There are NBA scouts that will tell you he’s probably ready to play in the pro game right now.

But either Miller or the successful suitor, Coach K, would gladly accept that shortcoming.

That one season would likely have been enough to pretty much guarantee getting the highly-successful Miller to the Final Four appearance he has been seeking for the 13 years he has been a college head coach – and maybe even a national title.

Now, that title opportunity belongs to the Blue Devils.  Like they need another, right?