Marvin Bagley III, a 6-foot-8 forward that hails from Phoenix, just picked up a scholarship offer from Arizona State, according to reports. It’s the second scholarship offer that Bagley has, as another in-state program, Northern Arizona, reportedly offered him as well.
Let’s sidestep the whole ‘Are those really scholarship offers?‘ issue for a second and instead focus on the fact that Bagley still has a year left in middle school.
(UPDATE: It’s worth noting here that Bagley is the grandson of Joe Caldwell, an Arizona State legend that has his jersey hanging in the Wells Fargo Arena rafters.)
He’s in 7th grade. He won’t graduate high school until 2018. And not only does he have scholarship offers from coaches that, more likely than not, will be coaching elsewhere by the time that he can finally go to college, he already has a mixtape.
Seriously. Click on that link. Look at the players Bagley is going up against. They come up to his knees because, you know, they are 12 and 13 and 14 years old.
There’s a real danger is publicizing, hyping up and recruiting players that are still in middle school. It’s something I’m very much against. These athletes are still kids, even though they have the size and build of someone much older. How many seventh graders have hit puberty and hit their growth spurts? The kids that do — the ones that develop early and get their strength, their athleticism, their size, and their five o’clock shadow while still in middle school — are the kids that dominate at the middle school level.
And now there’s a study to prove it.
Researchers at the Indiana University looked at elite track and field athletes at the junior and the senior levels and found that only a minority of the younger star athletes found the same kind of success at an older age:
The researchers think physical maturation is behind the disparity, with athletes who mature early reaping the benefits early, seeing their best times, jumps and throws at a younger age than Olympians, many of whom mature later.
“You see it in a lot of sports,” said Robert Chapman, assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and a former cross country coach at IU. “Elite performers in senior sports tend to be the ones who mature later. But it’s hard to measure, particularly in men, the rate at which they mature.”
The most telling stats? Only 23.6% of the junior athletes studied went on to win Olympic medals, while just 29.9% of the Olympians studied won medals at the junior level.
In a much less scientific way, we can tie this right back into basketball. Think: Derrick Caracter, and Demetrius Walker, and Taylor King, and Renardo Sidney. And that’s just off the top of my head.
The danger isn’t just the fact that the rest of the kids in their age group catch up in terms of size and strength and athleticism. It’s that these stars believe they’ve made it simply because they someone put highlights of them on youtube or a reporter interviewed them or they got a letter from a head coach at a Pac-12 program.
What they don’t realize is that those letters and those interviews and that attention they are receiving is based entirely on potential. It’s based on the fact that, if they work as hard as they can everyday on becoming a better basketball player, they could one day have a chance of playing in college and maybe the NBA.
But what motivation is there to develop a post game when you get all the adulation a middle-schooler can handle simply for being impossible to defend thanks to your height? Why does someone needs to learn to shoot and dribble when all they have to do is run at the rim and jump over any and all defenders?
Marvin Bagley III could very well end up being picked in the lottery of the 2019 NBA Draft. He clearly has worlds of potential.
But he also has six full years, and a countless number of hours that he’ll have to spend in a gym, before that should even be a thought that crosses his mind.
Hopefully, Marvin, his family and the people around him realize that.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.