SportStars Magazine

Release The Hounds: Marcus Bagley Ups The Ante For Sheldon Hoops

With The Addition Of Marcus Bagley And Others, The Sheldon Huskies Are Built For Another State Title Run •

This past June, Marcus Bagley had little idea where he would spend his final two years of high school.

That decision depended on where his older brother would be drafted. His family discussed Phoenix as a possible destination — not far from their hometown of Tempe — because the Suns held the No. 1 overall pick. Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas were also on the map. 

Marvin III was a consensus All-American in his first and only season at Duke University. He was projected to be taken anywhere in the top five spots of the 2018 NBA Draft. That left Marcus and his family in the lurch waiting for their next destination.

Prior to their East Coast time, the Bagley’s had spent the past half-decade in Southern California, where Marvin and Marcus found success at Sierra Canyon School — a private institution nestled in the trees, north of Los Angeles.

Marvin’s name was called with the No. 2 overall selection by the Sacramento Kings. Not long after, Marcus to start considering schools in the area.

“It went by so fast, it’s crazy,” Marcus Bagley recalled. “It seems like just yesterday my brother committed to Duke. But I know I’m enjoying it, just having fun right now and being a kid.”

 

Marcus Bagley, Sheldon Huskies

Junior transfer Marcus Bailey will be listed as a post player, but he’ll see time at all five spots for the Huskies. (David Gershon photos)

One of the first times Marcus heard of Sheldon High came in late March, when the Huskies were taking on his former squad in the 2018 CIF state title game. Despite their loss to Sierra Canyon at the Golden 1 Center, the Huskies had left an impression on the young star.

“I knew I wanted to compete at the highest level, against the best teams,” Bagley admitted.

Marcus did not participate in prep basketball during his brother’s tenure with the Blue Devils. However, he stayed in shape by playing with AAU leagues around North Carolina. He has offers from a handful of Div. I schools and is seeking a state title to pad his résumé before trekking off to college.

“Marcus is a great kid,” Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said. “He shares the ball, he’s not selfish, he works hard. He’s good in school, he’s polite — he’s just a good, all-around person.”

ADDING TO THE PACK

Fresh off a 29-6 season and a trip to that state championship game in 2018, Sheldon returns a handful of key players this year. That includes backcourt standouts Xavion and Xavier Brown, Justin Nguyen and Kaito Williams. But the team’s frontcourt will look much different with Bagley and Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove transfer Josh Morgan filling up the paint.

“They really add to what we try to do. We’re a defensive team, and that’s what we were last year, too,” Rollings stated. “Last year we had guys that were 6-foot-7 or 6-8, but Josh is 6-11 and Marcus Bagley and (Brennen) Newsom are both 6-8, so they really add to our defense and give us flexibility.”

Marcus Bagley, Sheldon Huskies, Xavier Brown

Xavier Brown, left, is part of a talented returning starting backcourt for the Huskies.

The new additions mean Sheldon should be able to play more press defense, leaving Bagley and Morgan in the paint to protect the rim.

Sheldon also added Preston Heede, a 6-4 senior post. Heede earned second-team all-Mid-Willamette Conference honors last year at Crescent Valley in Corvallis, Oregon.

Most teams in the section rely on one or two standout players destined for the collegiate level. Rollings says he has a handful of players who will continue their careers at the next level, whether at Div. I universities or smaller Div. 2 schools.

Williams, a senior guard, is committed to Cal State East Bay. Bagley has offers from Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, USC, Nevada and Pacific. Morgan is a Long Beach State commit.

The latter is the team’s tallest addition. He has the wingspan of a pterodactyl, specializes in blocking shots and averaged 1.8 rejections last season for Pleasant Grove. Now, he makes the jump to a new school, just three miles away. It’s been eye-opening for Morgan.

“Before I transferred, I worked on explosion training maybe one or two times a week… but Coach Rollings has me in the gym nearly every day,” Morgan said. “That’s been one of the biggest differences. It’s the work we put in.”

‘OUTWORKING’ THEIR OPPONENTS

Marcus Bagley, Sheldon Huskies, Josh Morgan

Josh Morgan, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove, will provide a strong inside presence for the Huskies.

Rollings makes one thing perfectly clear to his group of players: His group is going to outwork the teams it plays. That starts in the weight room.

From conditioning and weight training, to film study and practices, this program has a heavy collegiate influence.

“When you get to that level, you’re lifting weights or conditioning at 5 a.m. every day,” Rollings said. “You also have to keep your grades up and study for two hours a day. So we try to simulate a lot of that. Get these guys to know that we can’t just walk into the gym and think we’re better than the other team. We have to work for it. Because when you get to the playoffs, you can’t be lackadaisical.”

Rollings and his staff use multiple techniques in practice to put players in difficult and adverse situations. That way, when his team comes across fierce competition, they can be ready for it.

“We want to see who can will their team to a victory, no matter the situation,” Rollings admitted. “Because we’re going to get in those situations this year, and we’re going to have to put our heads down and outwork our opponents.”

COLLEGIATE-LEVEL TALENT

Sheldon has witnessed a handful of special players over the past decade, many of whom have taken their talents to the next level, but Marcus Bagley could take the cake as most impressive.

“He’s very smart with the ball,” Rollings pointed out. “He knows when to screen, when to roll, when to pop, when to drive and he’s not selfish with the ball.”

Marcus Bagley, Sheldon Huskies, Kaito Williams

Kaito Williams is a versatile wing committed to Cal State East Bay.

At 6-8, Marcus Bagley looks like your typical low post player. But regardless of his size, he has excellent versatility and prides himself on his ball-handling.

“I can do it all — shoot, rebound, dribble, get my teammates open, defend, just do everything on the court,” Bagley acknowledged.

That’s in part due to his roots. He grew up watching his older brother Marvin III, who was the tallest player on the floor and was consistently put in the post to play. But their dad, Marvin Jr., knew his boys could do more than just play in the post.

Marcus Bagley, who didn’t enjoy the same height advantage over his classmates as his brother, grew up playing guard and honing his skills as a ball-handler.

“He can play one through five,” Rollings said. “That’s how good he is. He can play point guard, he can play the two-guard, he can play small forward, power forward or center — he’s that flexible and we’re going to use him at every spot.”

The loss of Sac-Metro Player of the Year, Del Currie — who averaged 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals — to graduation leaves a hole at point guard, but the team believes its additions will pay off in the long run.

“We’ve been to the big stage, and now we know what we have to do to get (back) there,” Xavion Brown said. “So we just have to execute and do it, and actually take away the goal.”

CHAMPIONSHIP PEDIGREE

The Huskies have dominated league play over the past four seasons, and a 2018 realignment which moved Grant-Sacramento out and Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove in, shouldn’t change that.

Since realigning from the Delta River League in 2014 to the Delta League, the Huskies have lost just one league contest in 56 tries.

That sort of dominance won’t help diminish the hype already associated with this year’s squad, and it won’t stop Bagley from lofty goals either. 

The junior says he has two things in mind this year — win as many games as possible, and win one in particular — the state championship game.

“They made it to state last year, but fell short to Sierra Canyon (in the championship),” Bagley said. “I bring a whole new dimension to the team and I think we can get it done.”

That game is still months away, but fans will get their first glimpse of the championship contenders on Nov. 24, as they open the year against St. Bernard-Playa del Rey at Newark Memorial’s NorCal Tip-Off Classic — and that should satisfy the salivating Sheldon hoop fans in the meantime.

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