Championship Experience at Villanova Helped Prepare Bridges for NBA

by Cody Cunningham

Two-time National Champion. First Team All-Big East. Julius Erving Award recipient.

Phoenix Suns’ forward Mikal Bridges had quite the storied career in his three years at Villanova and is now using his college experience to assist him at the next level.

From clutch shots to his lockdown defense, Bridges was performing at the highest level on one of the biggest stages in the country. The dramatics and pressure of helping guide his team through the NCAA Tournament and to two national titles prepared him for the opposing crowds when the Suns hit the road.

“Just playing through adversity and playing at the biggest stage at the collegiate level,” Bridges said. “I’d be in situations where maybe the crowd is yelling or maybe you’ve got to shoot some tough free throws so it doesn’t faze me anymore.”

Bridges went from averaging just 6.4 points per game his freshman year to 17.7 his final year. While both of those seasons he won the championship, his growth and experience throughout those years played major roles in preparing him for the next level.

“When you play in an NBA game at another arena, it doesn’t seem like anything to you because you’ve been in important games,” Bridges said.

Even as a rookie, Bridges professionalism reminds many of a seasoned veteran in the league and Suns Head Coach Igor Kokoskov credits that to his time spent at Villanova.

“First class basketball program,” Kokoskov said. “He’s coming from a structured organized program. It definitely helped him grow as a person, as a basketball player. You can tell he was very well coached.”

With the NCAA Tournament beginning on Thursday, it’s an easy guess who Bridges is rooting for to win it all.

“I like our chances for sure,” Bridges said. “Going to take it one game at a time.”

Villanova opens up the tournament as a six seed against Saint Mary’s on Thursday as they begin their quest for back-to-back championships.

“I’m excited,” Bridges said. “Of course, we have a game at the same exact time, but I hope right after that game ends and our games ends, I can go on my phone and see that we won. I’m excited for that.”

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