BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Marvin Bagley III was a little amped to play his first game in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit Saturday morning at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
The 6-11 sophomore, considered the No. 1 player in his class despite missing nearly all of last season, had 21 points and seven rebounds Saturday to lead the Phoenix Phamily 17-under team to a 68-47 defeat of the RM5 Elite from Texas. Though he played in a small two-game tournament two weeks ago, this was his return to big-time competition.
“It felt great to get back on the court,” Bagley said. “It’s a great experience, being at the 17-under level. It was good to get out here and I feel great about my team and what we can do.”
Bagley led Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) to a state title as a freshman, but after transferring to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, and putting up 51 points and 17 rebounds in his first game as a sophomore, his father pulled him and his younger brother Marcus out of Hillcrest and transferred them to to Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.). The California Interscholastic Federation declared that Bagley was ineligible to play basketball at Sierra Canyon and denied Bagley’s appeal, stating the move was basketball related. That meant that Bagley, despite being healthy, had to watch from the bench as Sierra Canyon went 26-5 and lost in the first round of the state Open Division playoffs.
“That was the hardest time in my life, not being able to play and just sitting on the bench and watching,” Bagley said. “During that process, I was just staying positive. I was focusing on the season and not being selfish.”
With all that time off, there was a lot of interest in how he would play after the long layoff. The court was ringed by every big-name college coach, with the lone exception of Mike Kzyzewski. Duke and UCLA are two schools that Bagley recently made unofficial visits to.
“They’re all showing love,” Bagley said. “I’m not really worried about the college part yet. I still have another two years of high school. I’m focused on the high school experience. I’ve seen a lot of coaches out there, but I try not to think about it. To me, they come to watch the game like everyone else and I just have to play and do what I do. … I have a lot of stuff that I’m good at and I want to get to the point where I don’t have to think about it, where it comes naturally to me. I have to work on my all-around game.”
His father, Marvin Bagley Jr., who is an assistant coach for Phoenix Phamily, said his son stayed just active enough during the layoff and it showed.
“He’s been in the gym all the time,” Marvin Jr. said. “He’s trying to stay competitive. God is good. He’s given us the opportunity to get back on the court and compete and it’s been a long time coming. … He’s played a lot of basketball, so the rest benefited him. He didn’t lose too much and his body got a chance to relax and recoup and just save himself and we’re ready to roll now. We can’t let everybody’s expectations dictate what we’re doing. There’s no rush and God has a plan and allowed it to happen the way it did and we just take it the way it comes.”
Bagley III is playing alongside three other Sierra Canyon teammates on the Phamily: Adam Seiko, a 6-4 sophomore guard; Remy Martin, a 6-0 sophomore guard; and 6-9 forward Cody Riley, who said he benefited from scrimmaging with Bagley this past season.
“At practice and open gym, we’ve gone against each other constantly,” said Riley, who is listed as the No. 25 junior in 247Sports.com’s composite rankings. “Like they say, iron strengthens iron. We’re going against each other all the time, making each other better. I’m a big strong guy and he’s athletic and a long lengthy skill guy. It definitely makes us better.”
Bagley said he plans to stay at Sierra Canyon next season, though he left open a huge loophole.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I’ll be back at Sierra Canyon. It’s up to God, really, so who knows where I’ll be able to go?”
Follow Jim Halley on Twitter @jimhalley