Mikal Bridges was put on earth to play the wing in today’s NBA. At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, he has the length and athleticism that teams covet for defenders on the perimeter. His buttery stroke was a sight to behold at Villanova, as he improved from deep every year for his hometown school. It also helps that, from the time he was a child, Bridges was obsessed with the game.
Bridges was like every kid growing up, trying his hands at football — literally, he was a wide receiver when he’d play — baseball, soccer, and just about anything else. At the end of the day, though, he’d find himself on the outdoor courts playing ball.
“Always outside,” Bridges told Dime when asked about what he was like as a kid. “Me and my friends, we’d just go to the park and just be outside, play basketball literally all day. And I remember we would always go to Wawa and get food and then get snacks and just jugs of drinks, because we knew we’re we’d be outside all day. Ride our bikes there and ride out and just stay outside till the night and then come back.”
Bridges is Philly through and through, from the fact that he grew up in the greater-Philadelphia area, to his decorated high school career at Great Valley High School in the suburb of Malvern, to his eventual college decision to attend Villanova. Still, despite that all that — particularly that last thing — Bridges wasn’t a devout Wildcat growing up.
Don’t get it twisted, the team was still a constant presence in his life. Growing up, his best friends were “Nova heavy,” with flags at their houses and games on their television. His high school was 20 minutes away from the school, and when Jay Wright offered in early June of 2013 — telling the soon-to-be high school junior and four-star prospect that he saw potential, a good work ethic, and a coachability that makes for the consummate teammate — Bridges knew right away that he wanted to be a Wildcat.
He took one last visit, a trip to Penn State on June 23. Bridges returned home, and two days later, he announced his college decision.
Bridges had no idea a redshirt was coming. His freshman year at Villanova involved him playing exactly zero basketball, which led to him getting “down.” For someone who loves the game of basketball, being told you can’t play it competitively can be awfully tough, and despite the fact that his roommate, current Wildcats standout Phil Booth, would help him take his mind off of things, it was something that weighed on him.