Fab Freshmen of Faith: Marvin Bagley III, Duke University

This story appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine, which will hit mailboxes March 19. Support our ministry and subscribe here.

Before stepping on the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Marvin Bagley III had already left an impression on Chris Paul and James Harden. The NBA superstars actually competed with Bagley in the Drew League, an elite summer circuit in Los Angeles. The 6-foot-11 power forward then joined an already talented roster at Duke, and finished the regular season leading his team in both points (21.1) and rebounds (11.5).

The versatile big man has a quick first step to get past defenders and has the elite leaping ability to grab rebounds or contest shots at the rim on the defensive end. Not confined to playing in the paint, Bagley handles the ball well and has the range to step out and knock down mid-range shots or an occasional 3-pointer.

These talents were put on full display in an early-season matchup against the Texas Longhorns. Trailing by 16 in the second half, Duke followed Bagley’s lead as he scored 24 points after the intermission en route to an 85-78 win in overtime. Bagley’s 34-point, 15-rebound effort tied the Blue Devils’ freshman scoring record and was the first time any Duke player had a game with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds since Christian Laettner in 1992 (Bagley went on to post three more 30/15 games).

“I believe ultimately in this kid. I knew he was going to be good, but coaching him every day, he’s a treasure, really,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “Because he wants to be really good. All of his teammates love him because he’s as hard of a worker as we have.”

Beyond the court, Bagley spends time pouring back into the lives of others. While living in the L.A. area as a teenager, he volunteered for Hoops with a Heart. This is a non-profit organization that donates sports equipment to Los Angeles after-school programs and assigns children to be mentored by high school athletes.

Furthermore, Bagley realizes that without his faith in Jesus, the chance to play college basketball at the highest level wouldn’t be possible.

“If it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be here,” Bagley told CBS Sports in November. “I still can’t believe I’m playing basketball, doing this here at Duke — it’s kind of a dream come true.”

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