In a week full of spectacular sequences on the basketball court, Miles Bridges had one that drew oohs and aahs a little louder than others.
Bridges — playing for Michigan-based The Family at Nike’s Peach Jam event in South Carolina — started a fast break with an outlet pass to teammate Cassius Winston (U-D Jesuit), ran full out behind Winston down the floor, caught a pass from him off the backboard and flushed it through the rim with two hands.
The crowd went nuts. Bridges let out a little yell as he landed on the court. But a few minutes later, he seemed entirely unimpressed.
“I mean, it was all right,” Bridges told the Herald-Leader with a straight face. “I should have windmilled it. It was right there for me.
“But, hey, it’s a bucket.”
The buckets have been coming in bunches for the Flint native of late, and last week’s Peach Jam — the biggest event on Nike’s summer circuit — was no exception.
Everyone who has followed Bridges’ high school career has known for years that he’s one of the best dunkers in the country. The uber-athletic, 6-foot-6 small forward showed that often when he first arrived at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep as a sophomore, a role player with plenty of potential but still rounding into the elite prospect he has become.
“I loved Miles when I first watched him,” said 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer. “But then I really became concerned that he was just a power player. Would he have the perimeter skills as a ballhandler and a passer and shooter to play the wing?”
But Bridges’ play over the past few months has confirmed his initial evaluation.
“He’s been terrific on the travel circuit, and especially this past weekend,” Meyer said. “He was out of sight.”
Bridges averaged 23.4 points over five games — second only to recent Duke commitment Jayson Tatum — and pulled down 10.0 rebounds per game, good enough for the fifth-highest average at the event.
The most impressive part of his week — the highlight reel full of monster dunks included — was his outside shooting.
Bridges was 12-for-28 on three-point attempts, shooting nearly 43% from long range despite going 1-for-5 in his final game.
For a player who already is so physical and accomplished at scoring near the basket, this new wrinkle could be a game changer.
“The shooting — it just gives him another dimension that is enormous,” Meyer said. “You can’t play off of him. You have to respect his shot. … He’s shooting with confidence right now, and that’s the big difference.
“When a player like that makes threes like he made them, he’s virtually unguardable.”
Meyer moved Bridges to the No. 14 spot in the class of 2016 following his performance at the Peach Jam.
A player with his promising talent probably would be ranked much higher in other classes, Meyer said, but the 2016 group is so jam-packed with potential superstars that it makes slotting the five-star prospects a difficult proposition.
“You see a player play in most classes,” Meyer said, “and you say, ‘Oh, that’s a top-10 guy.’ But in this class, that same guy might only be top 20. I think Bridges sort of fits in that category. You want to put him higher than 14, but you have to put him ahead of someone to do that.”
Bridges trimmed his recruiting list Monday to five schools: Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina.
He told the Herald-Leader last week that he plans to take an official visit to UK for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 16, so it was no surprise to see the Wildcats make his final five.
Michigan State, which won a national title in 2000 with Flint natives Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell, also is making a strong push to bring Bridges back home for his college career, and he told the Herald-Leader that he plans to take an official visit there in September.
Meyer said he would be surprised if Bridges ends up somewhere other than Lexington or East Lansing.
For now, he’s predicting that the five-star recruit will be a Wildcat.
“I just think he likes Kentucky,” Meyer said. “I think he’s intrigued with Kentucky. I think getting that (scholarship) offer was a big deal to him.
“I sense that Kentucky has the edge right now.”