Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the 2018 class, is coming to Duke — a year ahead of schedule.
If he gets approval from the NCAA to play this season, Bagley, who’s 6-11, 230 pounds and Duke’s seventh freshman, gives the Blue Devils the stretch-4 forward they lack.
That position is an important one for Duke, and it’s one coach Mike Krzyzewski has molded into a one-and-done pathway to the NBA draft lottery in each of the last four seasons.
Jabari Parker played that position in the 2013-14 season. So did Justise Winslow – most of the time – the following season. Brandon Ingram was next in 2015-16, followed last season by Jayson Tatum.
All four players were selected among the first 10 picks in the NBA draft following their lone seasons in Durham.
Now comes Bagley, who announced Monday night that he had completed his high school degree a year early so he could reclassify into the 2017 recruiting class.
Leaving high school a year early allows Bagley, who’s from Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif., to get to the NBA draft a year earlier. If the NCAA approves him to play college basketball this season, he’ll slide right into a Duke lineup that already includes three incoming freshmen who were rated as the No. 1 players at their positions.
Point guard Trevon Duval, shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. and power forward Wendell Carter were Duke’s three highest-rated freshmen before Bagley’s decision.
“They have a physical maturity that we think is ready for college basketball right now,” Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said earlier this month. “If you look at Trevon, Gary and Wendell, physically they look like they’ve been in college. Experience-wise, confidence-wise, they look like it. Because of that, I don’t think there’s the insecurity that sometimes a freshman can have when you don’t know and you are trying to figure it out.
“They don’t know everything. But they know they are good.”
Bagley falls under that same description.
Take those four freshman and add senior guard Grayson Allen, who helped Duke win a national championship in 2015, then averaged 21 points per game and was named an All-American the following year.
That’s quite the collection of talent.
On top of that, the Blue Devils have 6-11, 246-pound sophomore center Marques Bolden, who arrived last season with one-and-done aspirations before an injury-plagued season kept him at Duke for another year.
Prior to Bagley’s decision, Capel already liked what he’s seen from Duke’s revamped team.
“Everyone, since they’ve gotten here, has been all in,” Capel said earlier this month. “They have been terrific. They really, really have.”
To help bring the team closer together, Duke had planned this month to go to the Dominican Republic and play a pair of exhibition games with that country’s national team. That trip was canceled on Thursday, a week before the team was to depart, after the school announced that Krzyzewski needed surgery to replace his right knee.
The Blue Devils wouldn’t have gotten enough out of the trip unless its entire team – including Krzyzewski – was part of it. With Bagley now on the team, Krzyzewski wouldn’t have been the only one missing. Since Bagley didn’t enroll for summer school classes, he would not have been eligible to participate under NCAA rules.
When he arrives on campus in time for the start of classes on Aug. 28, Bagley will join the rest of the team in what will have to be a quick bonding experience.
“You have to be tough,” Capel said. “You have to grow up very quickly. We are going to need these guys to grow up very quickly. Young is not an excuse. It’s the way it is and we have to figure it out and we have to figure it out together.”