It was Christmas in July for the Arizona State men’s basketball program last week after the announcement that sophomore forward Marcus Bagley was withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft and returning to Tempe.
Bagley entered his freshman season with the rightful pomp and circumstance that should come with his title as one of the highest-rated Sun Devil basketball recruits in program history, and he spent his first few outings making good on that hype.
A breakout 21-point performance against Houston Baptist came in just his third game. He would go on to score in double figures six more times last season, the best of which was a 19-point outing against Oregon State, where he shot 4-of-9 on threes.
Unfortunately for Bagley, injuries were as much the story of his freshman season as his offensive production. He suffered a frightening lower leg injury against Cal on Dec. 3 which saw Bagley make the motion that he had been kicked in the lower calf while running in the open court. That motion is a common sign of achilles tears.
The Sun Devil program breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was diagnosed with a less serious calf injury. Nevertheless, Bagley was out for over a month. In late January, the injury bug got him again, this time his ankle, and another month of rehab commenced.
Despite the injuries, his production was very solid. He averaged 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds (team-high), and 1.2 assists on 38.7/34.7/71.9 shooting splits. Throw in 0.4 blocks and 0.8 steals per game, and the picture of Bagley as the team’s most complete player last season becomes even more clear.
It is definitely possible, probably likely, those numbers could have been even higher had Bagley played the full season. As a result, maybe they should not be taken as the best way to measure his value.
There is one stat that has the potential to be much higher in 2021-22: 3-point percentage. He achieved that 34.7 percent mark in an offense that did a poor job of moving the ball and getting shooters open.
As a team, Arizona State ranked 176th in assists. He does not yet have the ability to create his own shot at an elite level, but his movement on catch-and-shoot threes is NBA-caliber.
Marcus Bagley with the movement 3 using an off-ball screen is exactly what we need to see from him. His ability to consistently hit shots like this will be his primary swing-skill in terms of his longterm value pic.twitter.com/Ly6eQaiL61— HoopsWill (@HoopsWill) November 27, 2020
The minute Bagley announced his return, he became the focal point of the Sun Devil offense. His game also provides the antidote for a lot of the team’s issues last season because it feeds off of ball movement and screen action away from the ball.
More seasoning in college is what Bagley decided he needed, and the Sun Devils are better off for it. If he can become a better playmaker, he can not only be one of the best players in the Pac-12, but one of the best in the nation come this winter.