NEW YORK – Mikal Bridges was not even one of the top 80 recruits coming out of his Philadelphia suburban high school in 2014. In the collegiate basketball era, it was the opposite when he arrived in Villanova that summer and he was forced to change his freshman season because he was simply not ready. When he was finally ready to play as a relatively unknown reserve on the Wildcats national championship team the following season, his older teammates scolded him for his finesse tendencies on the line. I preferred the trays over the powerful dumps.
It was extraordinary to see Bridges' transformation on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden versus Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic, when halfway through the second half, the redshirt junior took two dribbles in the lane and dived more than two of the big men of the Bulldogs. Countless people stopped and gasped in the bottom bowl, including some fans who wore Syracuse oranges, who played Connecticut in the night's cup. Then Bridges '6-foot-7 did something that could have made NBA executives' scores better than themselves: about seven seconds later, after running back to the defense and lurking in the lane, it occurred to him the most emphatic block of the night in the 88-72 victory of his team.
"Just being aggressive … I just saw a lane and I tried to go up and be strong," said Bridges. "And defense, that's the main thing."
Pray for the Gonzaga basketball team
There's nothing wrong with them, it's just that Mikal Bridges has just finished its program pic.twitter.com/ywUj8Hhirx
– Stri: (a (@ StrikaNation24_) December 6, 2017
More people stood up after the sequence, and a large group of fans began to sing "Mi-kal Bri-dges" briefly at one end of the arena. It ended after a few seconds, but what Bridges did on Tuesday night – scoring his 28-point career score along with six rebounds and two blocks – it will probably reverberate in college basketball for some time. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said in the game broadcast that Bridges had made a "19459024 case" for the first American team. " On Twitter, the former guard Villanova's Josh Hart claimed his former teammate would be a first-round pick and even was boldly projected that Bridges would be drafted in front of Michigan state star Miles Bridges .
That The noise wave did not seem to disturb the soft Mikal Bridges when he took the podium, where he said all the right things and told the story about the veteran veterans in the show that They have challenged to attack more over the years. . One of the main concerns of Villanova entering the season was finding a replacement for graduates Hart and Kris Jenkins, who were pillars in the program for four seasons. Villanova has another star with experience in the 6-foot, 2-foot youth setter Jalen Brunson, who finished with 12 points on Tuesday, as well as the red-shirt junior Phil Booth, a Baltimore product that scored 20 points on 9 of 14 throws when Gonzaga delivered one of his worst defensive performances of the last two years.
But Bridges was on a completely different level than anyone else in the room on Tuesday night, and showed exactly why his professional actions are on the rise. He not only showed his skill in the dribble, but also found himself comfortable leaving the perimeter to look for his sweater. And on the defensive side, he not only altered the shots on the rim, but blocked a return hook for Killian Tillie, 6 feet 10 inches tall, while his mere presence in the transition looked like enough to stop one tray in another – but he also lined up and put pressure on Gonzaga goalkeeper Josh Perkins in the defense zone for long periods.
"He probably could have done more of this last year and the year before, but gradually he got better and better, and he knows this year," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Bridges, who averaged just 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in his first two seasons, but he entered on Tuesday recording 17.9 points and 6.3 boards per outing this season. "He's the captain, so he's playing with more freedom." "Aggressiveness," as he puts it. "
Wright has seen Bridges compile sequences like that of the second half more and more in practices, he said, so he was perhaps the least surprised by those 13 seconds on Tuesday night There have been some bright signs from Bridges in his first two years at Villanova: "I'm trying to mature as a player," he said, but this was the kind of night Wright envisioned when he received a commitment from the team. Now it remains to be seen if Bridges will escape for the NBA early after this season.
"He's a great player and I hope he stays in college," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. someone who can do what he wants "
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