Last year, after committing to Penn to play basketball, Tony Bagtas did an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian.
In that interview, the incoming freshman told the DP that Penn’s coaching staff said he would “run the team next year.”
Well, next year is now this year, and Bagtas is now an official member of Penn men’s basketball.
And understandably, many are skeptical that the freshman point guard will be the team’s main ballhandler in 2013-14.
Those skeptics’ reasoning is simple. Why would a true freshman take the point guard spot away from two already proven commodities in senior captain Miles Cartwright and upstart sophomore Tony Hicks?
And I’ll fully admit I was one of those skeptics. But now, he may have me convinced.
That shift was the result of Bagtas’ performance in Saturday’s Red and Blue Scrimmage.
In the scrimmage, Bagtas was teamed up with Cartwright on the Red team. So, of course, one would expect Cartwright to be running the point while Bagtas took lessons from the incumbent in the early going.
But instead, it was the freshman running the point. And he looked good doing it, too.
Despite being one of smaller players on Penn’s team at 5-foot-11, Bagtas came up big in the scrimmage, looking sure of himself as he called plays while crossing halfcourt.
The freshman guard immediately displayed why coach Jerome Allen recruited him on the Red squad’s second possession, as he drove into the lane and deftly swung the ball out to an open Patrick Lucas-Perry, who subsequently drained the three-pointer.
And just a few plays later, Bagtas drove the ball to the hole, taking on senior Fran Dougherty and going up strong for a layup.
“It was exciting,” Bagtas said. “It felt really exciting to be on the court for the first time in a game situation with all the lights on in a big, historic arena.”
On top of the energy he provided, Bagtas also displayed glimpses of a solid jump shot, hitting a few mid-range jumpers during the scrimmage.
But Bagtas certainly wasn’t perfect. Late in the game, with his squad clinging to a three-point lead, Bagtas was stripped of the ball near center court as sophomore Jamal Lewis – another candidate for the point guard spot – took the ball all the way for an easy two.
And Bagtas was quick to point out his need to improve defensively.
“I really need to work on my on-the-ball defense. It’s been improving but I need to keep working at it and stick with it,” he said. “Coach tells me to get into the paint as much as I can, so I’ve been working on that.”
And while Bagtas was solid in the scrimmage, it would be a mistake not to point out that he was facing his own teammates, running familiar plays and playing against defenses he has been practicing in for weeks.
But that isn’t to say that Bagtas didn’t impress.
With his quotes from before the season, the freshman guard needed to come out and display his abilities from the beginning. And he certainly did that.
This isn’t to advocate him starting — Cartwright and Hicks are proven players who will start and play big minutes for Penn this season.
But if Bagtas can continue to play with the energy and ability he showed on Saturday, the idea of him “running the team” doesn’t look that bad.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton sophomore from Hopewell, N.J. and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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