By Chris Bradley (ESPN Boston)
For what Greg Bridges lacks in height, he made up for with outside shooting, skill, and dexterity this summer while playing for the Boston Warriors AAU squad.
A 5-foot-7 rising sophomore at New Mission, Greg took scouts, coaches, and fans by surprise this July with his display of scoring against national competition while playing at the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals; both events were held in Orlando. Bridges has carried the Warriors’ load offensively all summer long, and Cory McCarthy, Bridges’ coach at New Mission and for the Warriors, had his doubts.
“Going down there, I thought Greg would get pushed around. I thought the physical play would mess him up,” said McCarthy, “you see plenty of kids get worn down from [the competition] of July.”
The “competition” referred to is that of the NCAA’s July evaluation period. Commonly referred to as “Live Periods”, college coaches are allowed for three separate stanzas in July to attend NCAA-certified events.
July tends to be a hectic time for those involved in the grassroots basketball world. It is a prime recruiting time for college coaches, which means for standout high schoolers playing for their summer AAU teams, the majority of the month is spent trying to impress coaches at camps, showcases, and at massive AAU tournaments like Super Showcase and AAU Nationals.
Through all the attention given to the predetermined stars at each event, Bridges was able to shine through by averaging 27 points per game combined between AAU’s Super Showcase and Nationals. That includes a 42-point performance in a win over Altamonte (Fla.) at 11th grade Nationals — in which he knocked down 11 three-pointers — and in another contest 36 points on 8 three’s.
Adam Finkelstein, publisher of New England Recruiting Report and ESPN’s Northeast Recruiting Coordinator, was impressed with Bridges’ efficiency in Florida.
“The numbers [Bridges] put up in Florida will of course grab attention,” Finkelstein said. “But it wasn’t even so much the volume of his scoring but the consistency of it. He scored, but more so he hit shots at a very high percentage.”
McCarthy, who prides himself on being a hard-nosed, motivating disciplinarian of a coach, was impressed by Bridges’ play this summer, particularly in Florida. But he also warns that unless Bridges continues to improve over the course of his high school career, the attention he is getting from scouts and college coaches who are calling about him won’t be much more than headline banter and stories of what could have been.
Finkelstein agrees that gradual development will be the most important aspect for Bridges.
“Any time you have a point guard who is kind of undersized, especially one like [Bridges] who has three more years of development, he doesn’t need to get caught up so much in level yet,” he said.
McCarthy has heard from several Division 1 programs since Bridges’ outburst down South, including Boston University and Quinnipiac; Bridges plans on taking unofficial visits to both schools later this month. Other schools who have shown interest are Hampton, Alabama A&M, and Robert Morris.
“I think he has an opportunity to be special,” McCarthy said. “He has the IQ that it takes to be a college basketball player.”