Bridge The Gap

Great Val­ley prod­uct Mikal Bridges works out with home­town 76ers

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - SPORTS - By Terry Toohey ttoohey@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ter­ryToohey on Twit­ter

CAM­DEN, N.J. » Truth be told, the 76ers weren’t Mikal Bridges’ fa­vorite team grow­ing up. Sure, the Great Val­ley grad and Vil­lanova All-Amer­i­can went to games with his par­ents and grand­par­ents, and rooted for the home­town squad as a young­ster.

Yet that wasn’t the team he fol­lowed the most.

“Tracy McGrady was my fa­vorite player so wher­ever he went that was my fa­vorite team,” Bridges said. “When he was with Or­lando I used to root for Or­lando just strictly off of him, but I al­ways rooted for the home team for sure.”

Bridges cer­tainly will be singing the team’s praises if the 76ers take the Julius Erv­ing Award win­ner with the 10th pick in the NBA Draft June 21 at the Bar­clays Cen­ter in Brook­lyn. Bridges, who played on two na­tional cham­pi­onship teams at Vil­lanova, is one of the play­ers the 76ers are look­ing at for that spot, which is why they brought him to their prac­tice fa­cil­ity for a work­out Tues­day.

And Bridges would not mind be­ing taken by the home­town team.

“It means a lot, just grow­ing up in this area, go­ing to games when I was younger. My mom, my dad, my grand­par­ents would al­ways take me to games,” Bridges said. “It’s re­ally cool to see what they’ve been do­ing and how well coached they are, how hard they play and how tal­ented they are. It would be the per­fect fit.”

The 76ers are look­ing for a com­pli­men­tary piece to a team that won 52 games and reached the East­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals last sea­son. Ideally, that would be a player who can shoot the 3-pointer and de­fend. Bridges cer­tainly fits that mold. He’s 6-7 with a re­ported 7-0 wing­span and was among the bet­ter de­fend­ers in the na­tion dur­ing his three sea­sons on the Main Line. He also was one of the top 3-point shoot­ers in the coun­try. He ranked 18th na­tion­ally in 3-point field goal per­cent­age (43.5) and tied for 23rd in triples made (104) while lead­ing

the Wild­cats to their sec­ond na­tional ti­tle in three sea­sons.

The 76ers put Bridges through his paces dur­ing an in­di­vid­ual work­out in the af­ter­noon. They had him put up 100 3-point­ers and ran him through a se­ries of other drills in­clud­ing one-on-one and fouron-four sit­u­a­tions and liked what they saw.

“The way we play, space, pace, de­fend, I think he checks a lot of those boxes,” 76ers vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel Marc Ever­s­ley said. “His length, his quick­ness, his ath­leti­cism, his abil­ity to shoot the ball, those are all things that I thought he did (well), not only through­out his ca­reer, but to­day as well.”

Bridges also showed the part of his game he has worked on the most since he an­nounced his in­ten­tion to give up his fi­nal year of el­i­gi­bil­ity and turn pro nearly three months ago.

“He wasn’t re­lied upon a lot at Vil­lanova to cre­ate his own shot,” Ever­s­ley said. “One of the things we saw to­day was that he has the abil­ity to put it on the deck and cre­ate, not only for him­self, but for oth­ers as well.”

There’s no guar­an­tee that Bridges will be there when the 76ers pick. Sev­eral mock drafts have him go­ing to the Knicks at No. 9. The Bulls, who pick sev­enth, and the Cleve­land Cava­liers, who selected eighth, are re­port­edly in­ter­ested in Bridges. He has worked out for the Knicks and the Bulls and plans to show­case his skills for the Cavs.

There also is no guar­an­tee that the 76ers will stand pat. With six picks, two in the first round (Nos. 10 and 26) and four in the sec­ond (Nos. 38, 39, 56 and 60) the team has a lot of op­tions.

“It al­lows us to ei­ther go up and get a good player and maybe move back and get a good player,” Ever­s­ley said. “In terms of the strength of the draft I think it’s a pretty good draft from

one through 10. If we pick at 10 we’re go­ing to get a pretty good player. If we move back to 15, I think we’re go­ing to get some­body who’s go­ing to come in here and have the abil­ity to earn a ros­ter spot and con­trib­ute.”

Bridges wants to do more than just con­trib­ute.

“I want to win,” said Bridges, the Most Out­stand­ing Player of the Big East Tour­na­ment. “That’s the bot­tom line. I want to win. I want to go to a team that I fit well in and they can build me up. They can make me a bet­ter player. That’s what I look for. I want to win and I want to get bet­ter. That’s all I want to do.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what pick I am. I just want to go to a team that I can fit and who’s go­ing to de­velop me as a player. That’s my mind­set. That’s how bad I want to win.”

*** The Bridges work­out was the sec­ond of two pre­draft ses­sions the team held Tues­day. In the morn­ing, the 76ers looked at guards Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech) and Mar­cus Fos­ter (Creighton),

swing­man Donte In­gram (Loy­ola Chicago) and for­wards Mar­cus Derrickson (Ge­orge­town), Nick King (Mid­dle Ten­nessee State) and Mikyle McIn­tosh (Ore­gon).

The 6-5 Smith, who is pro­jected to be a first-round pick, was the most im­pres­sive of that group.

“He’s got great length and he’s a ter­rific, ter­rific ath­lete,” Ever­s­ley said. “He didn’t shoot the ball as well through­out the year, but he came in here to­day and he shot it pretty well.”

That was Smith’s goal com­ing into the work­out.

“I wanted to show my abil­ity to shoot the ball and be able to play-maker, bring the ball up, com­ing off screens and mak­ing the right de­ci­sions,” Smith said.

*** The 76ers are bring­ing in guards Bruce Brown Jr. (Mi­ami), Stephen Brown (Buck­nell), Jevon Carter (West Vir­ginia) and Bryant Craw­ford (Wake For­est), swing­man Dun­can Robin­son (Michi­gan) and for­ward Mav­er­ick Rowan (Lake­land Magic) for a look Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

CHRIS SZAGOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vil­lanova’s Mikal Bridges, right, drives to the bas­ket against Ge­orge­town’s Jamorko Pick­ett dur­ing a game last sea­son. Bridges, a grad­u­ate of Great Val­ley High School, worked out with the Philadel­phia 76ers on Tues­day.

BRYNN AN­DER­SON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vil­lanova guard Mikal Bridges cel­e­brates af­ter the NCAA Men’s Col­lege Bas­ket­ball Cham­pi­onship game against Michi­gan last April.

JULIO CORTEZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vil­lanova guard Mikal Bridges (25) shoots against Se­ton Hall guard Myles Cale (22) dur­ing a game last sea­son.

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