When Malcolm Brogdon was a prep basketball player in Georgia, he had dozens of Division I college scholarship offers.
Well, if his first few seasons at Virginia are any indication, Brogdon was worth all the fuss and attention. The junior is averaging 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game for the No. 3 Cavaliers (20-1, 8-1), who started the season 19-0 and are atop the ACC.
“Virginia struck me as an all-around choice,” Brogdon said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It offered outstanding academics and also the basketball program and prestige. I wanted to play in the ACC at this level and be on this type of stage playing for Coach (Tony) Bennett, who is a very humble, very team-oriented guy. I wanted to play for someone like that.”
That all sounds reasonable, Gottlieb said, but how was Brogdon able to make such a mature decision like that? Far too often, young players just want to go where they’ll get playing time, can do just enough in the classroom to stay eligible, and then, hopefully, make it to the NBA.
“I have to credit my mom and my family,” Brogdon said. “I come from a very academic (family). Everybody goes to college. Everybody graduates. There’s not really any leeway there. So the expectation is you go to college to get an education first. If you can get a scholarship, if you can play sports and be on the court, then that’s great too. But your academics and your education is what’s going to carry you through life after basketball.”
At this rate, the 6-5 Brogdon will be playing basketball for quite some time. He had a game-high 17 points and a team-high six rebounds in a 69-63 loss to No. 4 Duke this past Saturday. It was Virginia’s first loss of the season.
“We had some defensive breakdowns, uncharacteristic breakdowns that we usually don’t have,” Brogdon said. “But at the same time, I have to take my hat off to Duke. They hit tough shots. Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook – even (Jahlil) Okafor – made great passes at the end of the game for them to knock down shots they weren’t knocking down earlier in the game. So that combination of us breaking down on the defensive end and them stepping up to hit big shots really tipped the scale and allowed them to have success.”
Virginia, to its credit, bounced back two days later, beating No. 12 UNC in North Carolina, 75-64. It was the Cavaliers’ first win over a ranked Tar Heels squad in Chapel Hill since 1981.
“This is my fourth year at UVA,” said Brogdon, who scored a game-high 17 in that game as well. “We haven’t won there one time. My freshman year I came in and we went there and lose a close game. It’s just a very tough environment to play in. While you said they aren’t as good as people thought they’d be coming into the year, they’re still very, very talented, and they have stretches where they play really good basketball. But I thought our defense and our execution on the offensive end was really able to frustrate them.”
Frustrate. That’s a good word, mainly because the Cavaliers have done that to their opponents all season. In fact, they lead the nation in scoring defense (50.9) – and they’ve almost had to. They average just 68.3 points per game, which ranks 153rd in the country.
That’s a little boring, no?
“It’s about winning games,” Brogdon said, laughing. “I’m not going to say we’re an exciting team to watch. I’m not going to say anything that’s outside of our character or what we actually care about. We care about winning games. We have an identity. We have a system that works for us, and that’s what we pride ourselves on and are going to do every night.”
Virginia faces its third ranked team in a row this Saturday against No. 9 Louisville (19-3, 7-2). Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET.