The most impressive trait of Mikal Brudges when I covered him for three years at Great Valley was not his ability to drive the rim, or his 3-point shot, or his stifling defense.
The trait still stuck in my mind is Bridges’ unselfishness.
The Patriots’ motion offense, orchestrated by a very successful coach in Jim Nolan, was not an easy system to adjust to, especially for a player with supreme talent like Brudges.
The Patriot way was to share the basketball, run a lot of baseline screens, and, when you got a lead in the fourth quarter, to pull the ball out, milk some clock and get to the free throw line.
Not exactly SportsCenter highlight reel stuff. But boy, was it effective.
Bridges, who could hear his name called in the lottery in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, sacrificed his own game for the greater good of his team. And at times, people on the outside were highly critical of his play.
Why wasn’t Bridges taking over games in the fourth period? Where was he in the big moment? Why did he look so “ordinary?”
But the Patriots went to the PIAA quarterfinal round in Bridges’ junior season, before bowing to Chester. Bridges’ senior season ended in a stunning first round loss to Wissahickon in the district playoffs.
Bridges likely could have taken over both games and went one on five to give the Patriots a better chance to win. But, that wasn’t his way. Bridges was all about the team and trying to bring four other less talented players along with him.
Anyone with a smidgen of basketball knowledge knew the best of Mikal Bridges would come after high school. But, boy was it refreshing to see a kid so immensely talented not play selfish “look at me” basketball.
Bridges was the consummate team player at Great Valley. If he sacrificed his own stats to help the team win, so be it. He was all in.
He deserves all the good things that are coming to him, beginning Thursday night on a stage in New York City.
Peter DiGiovanni covers boys basketball for The Daily Local News. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteDLN.