Drew League as kid’s play

Ba­gley, 18, with a year of high school el­i­gi­bil­ity left, thrives against the pros.


They sur­rounded Marvin Ba­gley III as if he were al­ready an NBA All-Star. Fans armed with cell­phones, sharpies, bas­ket­balls and T-shirts wanted au­to­graphs and pho­tos with the player who has been the talk of the Drew League this sum­mer.

Ba­gley is a teenager whose se­nior year in high school should be start­ing in a cou­ple of weeks, but re­cently he’s gone against the likes of NBA star DeMar DeRozan and played on the same team with James Harden and Chris Paul.

On Wed­nes­day night, with a crowd of 1,500 fill­ing the Los Angeles South­west Col­lege gym­na­sium to watch a spe­cial game be­tween Los Angeles and Seattle teams fea­tur­ing current and for­mer pro­fes­sional play­ers, Ba­gley fin­ished with 18 points and 20 re­bounds.

“It’s been great for me,” Ba­gley said af­ter­ward. “It’s just been fun. It’s a lot more com­pe­ti­tion. Guys are stronger. Every­body wants to win, so you have to come out ev­ery game with your best per­for­mance and try to get a ‘W.’ ”

Ba­gley played for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High last sea­son but re­port­edly wants to join a col­lege team this fall.

His fa­ther, Marvin Jr., was asked about the fam-

ily’s plans but didn’t of­fer much in­sight. “We’re tak­ing it day by day,” he said, “look­ing at the best op­tions.”

Duke, USC and UCLA ap­pear to be the schools Ba­gley is giv­ing the most con­sid­er­a­tion, as­sum­ing he can ful­fill NCAA re­quire­ments to play.

Of course, if the NBA again al­lowed play­ers to en­ter its draft di­rectly from high school, Ba­gley’s de­ci­sion would be a no-brainer.

There have been a few high school play­ers be­fore who played against the pros in the Drew League, in­clud­ing DeRozan, but none has shown as well as Ba­gley.

“Oh my gosh,” said Mike McCaa, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of the Drew League. “In 44 years, he’s had the most im­pact of any high school player I’ve wit­nessed. He plays well above his age level and has a very strong sense of ma­tu­rity.”

Ba­gley, who is listed at 6 feet 11, 220 pounds, ap­pears to be more mo­bile and in even bet­ter shape than he was in earn­ing recog­ni­tion as the Ga­torade state player of the year while lead­ing Sierra Canyon to a 27-3 record last sea­son.

He runs the court with a sense of ur­gency and isn’t afraid to mix it up in­side with phys­i­cal grown men. Nat­u­rally a post player, he can step out­side and make jump shots. He also blocks out for re­bounds and ex­e­cutes the pick-and-roll like a vet­eran.

“He un­der­stands he has to bring it ev­ery night, ev­ery play,” his fa­ther said. “This isn’t high school. It’s quite an ex­pe­ri­ence.”

At 18, Ba­gley is show­ing he’s more than up to the task of lights, cam­eras and fans fo­cused on him.

“He’s so com­fort­able on the floor,” McCaa said. “This kid is to­tally un­fazed by the level of com­pe­ti­tion.”

Keion Kin­dred coached Ba­gley against Seattle, a team coached by for­mer Clip­pers guard Ja­mal Craw­ford.

“He’s a pro,” Kin­dred said. “He has un­be­liev­able com­po­sure around pro play­ers, which is un­be­liev­able for a high school player. He doesn’t say much, plays hard and ac­cepts the chal­lenge.”

On Wed­nes­day, for­mer NBA All-Star Baron Davis, 38, kept look­ing for Ba­gley — as if he was seek­ing to feed the ball to Tim Dun­can or Shaquille O’Neal.

One rea­son the pros like play­ing with Ba­gley is that he doesn’t take plays off. He’s shown he can en­dure a fast and phys­i­cal style of play for the length of a game against strong and ex­pe­ri­enced top-level ath­letes.

“You have to play hard,” Ba­gley said, “and don’t com­plain.”

Ba­gley clearly has earned a level of re­spect com­pet­ing each week in the Drew League. And it’s ob­vi­ous that a player of his skills has sur­passed any kind of high school bas­ket­ball com­pe­ti­tion.

His best path to reach­ing the NBA as quickly as pos­si­ble would be to meet what­ever aca­demic re­quire­ments are nec­es­sary to ad­vance to col­lege, put in his year there, then de­clare for the draft.

He seems to be fol­low­ing the words em­bla­zoned on his warmup shirt: No ex­cuse just pro­duce.

Shot­gun Spratling L.A. Times

MARVIN BA­GLEY III had 18 points and 20 re­bounds in re­cent game.

Pa­trick T. Fal­lon For The Times

MARVIN BA­GLEY III, who re­port­edly wants to skip his fi­nal high school sea­son for col­lege, dunks in a Drew League game. “He’s a pro,” coach Keion Kin­dred said. “He has un­be­liev­able com­po­sure around pro play­ers.”

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