At 6'7, rising sophomore Mikal Bridges brings a needed lateral depth to the Villanova Wildcats team. His path to rep that #25 jersey though, took a little while longer than most.
Redshirting his first year with the 'Cats, Bridges participated in the paces of training, but never took the court come game time. The Main Line native remarked in an interview with CSN Philly that while not playing games was difficult, the extra year to observe the team's inner workings was an "advantage" when it finally came time to suit up.
The 2015-2016 season marked Bridges's official freshman year with the Wildcats, and he made his presence known. His first game, Bridges snagged 5 rebounds and posted 8 points against Fairleigh Dickinson. Bridges may have set a theme for his year--nail down those rebounds.
Pairing his domineering stature with deft agility, Bridges displays a knack for skillfully maneuvering within the paint. His performance against Butler is a solid example of his ability, and also doubles as required viewing in a 101 course on How To Sneakily Dunk Like a Hero:
Bridges's lateral advantage was further showcased in the NCAA Tournament. Clocking in 26 minutes of playing time against UNC Asheville during the first round, Bridges put up 12 points and secured 4 rebounds. 26 minutes may be a magic number for Bridges--fast forward to Nova's Elite 8 game against Kansas, and in that time Bridges cinched 5 steals, 3 rebounds, and posted 6 points.
The highlight of Bridges's range is best seen to be believed. Feast your eyes on his gazelle-like spread during Nova's Final Four game against Oklahoma:
All in all, a respectful effort from a freshman in his first championship tournament. But how will Bridges transition his abilities in this upcoming season?
Before this season, Nova fans could count on the 6'11 structural support of Daniel Ochefu in the paint. Now that Ochefu has taken his talents to the Washington Wizards, the 'Cats need a stronghold to fulfill that role. Enter: Mikal.
Bridges's athleticism beneath the bucket provides an interesting defensive tactic for Villanova: tall and swift, Bridges has the composition of lean blocking machine. Coach Jay Wright has strategically utilized Bridges defensively in the past, and there is every indication that the player will continue to stunt for Nova with his guarding and rebounding.
And hopefully add some more dunks to our highlight reel.