It’s a massive get, obviously. Bagley, now rated the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2017, is so talented he has no business even playing college basketball.
“He could start for the Lakers right now,” a coach recruiting Bagley said last week.
That sentiment is likely shared by many NBA scouts who will book flights to Durham specifically to see Bagley in the coming months. But will they actually see him in games? As Duke fans are rejoicing, national media are and Las Vegas is updating national championship odds, let’s pause to assess what’s next.
Yes, Bagley intends to forgo his scheduled senior year of high school to enroll at Duke and, hopefully, play college basketball in 2017-18. But let’s remember that Bagley has no assurance — yet — from the NCAA, which will decide his fate. Just because people on TV, Twitter and message boards speak as if Bagley will play next season doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Yes, it’s quite possible. But Bagley declaring for Duke doesn’t change where he was prior to that pledge. Committing to the Blue Devils doesn’t magically make his situation go away. Where Bagley sits is in a state of uncertainty because he has not yet been cleared to play this upcoming season.
Bagley reportedly filed paperwork with the NCAA in late July to reclassify from 2018 to 2017, but that application will not process until Bagley’s complete transcript is submitted. A source told CBS Sports last week that there was still coursework for him to complete. If that is the case, the NCAA has not yet reviewed Bagley’s transcript. Once it does, the initial academic review process begins.
The NCAA will allot itself 10 days to review Bagley’s transcript and his academic history. This is not about Bagley’s grades, which are said to be good, but about whether he will complete the necessary coursework on an accelerated schedule. He’s attended three high schools in as many years, and for a couple of months when he was 15, was home schooled. Bagley’s past also includes a stint at Hillcrest Prep in Arizona, an school that in the past has failed to meet NCAA standards for core course requirements.
A source told CBS Sports that it’s unlikely the NCAA will take the full 10 days to review Bagley’s situation, given he’s aiming to get into classes at Duke in a matter of weeks. (Duke’s fall semester begins Aug. 28.). Time is very much of the essence, but the big unknown at the moment is how much coursework Bagley has left. From there, will his transcript suffice? Here’s how Bagley will find out: The NCAA sends him an email, he logs into an encrypted site that shows whether he qualifies. There is the possibility his transcript comes up short, ruling him ineligible to start the semester. He may qualify, on time, and be cleared to play for Duke for the first game of the season (Nov. 10 vs. Elon). But if not,.
He will either be deemed a full qualifier (immediate clearance, playing for Duke right away), an academic redshirt (can practice but cannot play in games; Bagley could appeal this decision) or a nonqualifier (would not even be able to be on scholarship; seen as the least likely outcome).
Duke has overcome some tough eligibility cases in the past. Perhaps it will do the same here. If so, the Blue Devils will enter the 2017-18 season with similar hype to 2016-17. That team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, wound up an uneven 28-9 and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to South Carolina. If Bagley does wind up stalled in his quest to play, then Duke faces a repeat of last season, when 2017 first-rounders Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles — because of injury, not eligibility — weren’t available to start of the season.
Bagley is a program-changing player. If he’s on the court, Duke will be the top story in the sport. If he’s not, his end game remains the 2018 NBA Draft. Bagley could wind up failing to clear the NCAA’s bar in time, but finishing up his coursework later this season. If that happens, he’ll be on the draft board come June. He’s now the favorite to go first overall, and the truth is, though college basketball would be more compelling with him in it, Bagley may not even need to play a game at Duke to keep his spot atop the 2018 crop.