Story by Brandon Bonaparte
The second highest-rated Arizona State men’s basketball recruit ever made headlines earlier this month when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a massive deal. That player goes by the name of James Harden.
The title of the highest-rated recruit in ASU history, however, belongs to current Sun Devil guard Josh Christopher. He sits atop the list of ASU all-time rated recruits, according to 247Sports.
Out of the top-five recruits in program history, four graduated high school in 2018 or later. However, despite high-profile players coming to Tempe over the last few years, ASU’s record right now stands at 5-8, sitting near the bottom of the Pac-12.
In a season that was described as “Bizarre. Weird. Just not normal,” by former Sun Devil guard and current radio analyst Kyle Dodd, the focus for some ASU fans may now be on the future of their highly-touted recruits.
Dodd joined the The Brad Cesmat Show last week to discuss the potential of the two standout ASU freshmen – Christopher and Marcus Bagley.
Christopher was a five-star prospect coming out of Mayfair High School in Lakewood, California, and many expect him to declare for the 2021 NBA Draft.
“I think the writing was on the wall,” Dodd said. “No matter where he would’ve chosen to went to school, I think that’s what you were expecting.”
In a down season for ASU, Christopher has showed flashes of brilliance.
“The kid is definitely different…he’s a great kid who really embraces the college experience even though he’s not really getting the college experience,” Dodd said. “I love his strength and physicality. His ability to get his shoulders below a defender’s hip. He’s able to finish with contact. He really launches his body into shot blockers, which you have to do.”
Although Dodd has said Christopher has much more strengths than weaknesses, he pointed out one aspect of Christopher’s game that needs to improve before the NBA: his shot consistency. In his last four games, Christopher shot over 54 percent in two of them, while in the other two games his shooting average dipped below 20 percent.
“We saw him out on the floor at Desert Financial late both games after getting shots up. He’s obviously going to put in the work. But it’s obviously there in his head that he’s struggling a little bit with confidence,” Dodd said. “I thought he passed up a couple shots recently where he would’ve taken earlier in the year…for that, I think his range is there. He can shoot it from deep, just [needs] to be more consistent.”
Of the top-five all-time ASU basketball commits, two of them are freshmen this year. One being Christopher, and the other being Bagley.
Bagley was a four-star out of Sheldon High School in Sacramento, California. He was the 31st-rated recruit in the class of 2020, 23 spots behind Christopher.
Bagley, the younger brother of current Sacramento King Marvin Bagley III, had lofty expectations to fulfill as a Sun Devil. Kyle Dodd believes he has lived up to the hype despite the team’s recent struggles and some early-season injury issues.
“Yeah, I think 100 percent,” Dodd said. “Outside of the injury, we’re a different basketball team with him out on the floor. It’s been evident the last couple of games.”
In a lineup with not much height, Bagley leads ASU in rebounding, averaging 6.3 per contest. His versatility and skill set, aside from just his ability to shoot the ball, have been showcased on many occasions.
“He’s a high IQ player, he stretches the floor, he’s tough, he can play at all levels, he can get to the rim, he’s got a nice little intermediate game, and then he really strokes it from outside,” Dodd said. “In my opinion…projecting him as a prospect at the next level, I think he’s probably more ready right now than anybody I’ve seen around the league.”
Christopher and Bagley are both an integral part of ASU basketball. Although Christopher was a higher-ranked recruit, Dodd believes Bagley is more NBA ready.
“I know a lot of people don’t agree with that, but in my opinion, I think Marcus is more ready right now,” Dodd said. “I think he has the chance to be really, really good.”
It seems both players will have their opportunity at the pro level sooner, rather than later.