From walk-on to writer: Q&A with former Wildcat David Bagga
David Bagga isn’t a name that comes up when talking about great ex-Wildcat basketball players.
He was a walk-on with the UA and was not afforded the same playing time as his former teammates Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless, all NBA Draft picks.
Bagga didn’t make it to the NBA, but the 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard from Foothill Ranch, Calif., decided he would use his experience as a walk-on in other ventures, specifically in book form.
Bagga chose to tell his story through a series of children’s books, the most recent, The Bench Player That Could, which went on sale on Amazon earlier this month. Bagga is also the author of The Walk On, which is about his time at the UA and the process by which he came to be a Wildcat.
In Bagga’s final game at McKale Center against Stanford in 2009, he hit a 3-pointer in the waning moments that iced the win for Arizona, which was on a losing streak to end the season.
The Daily Wildcat caught up with Bagga recently about his writing endeavors.
On becoming a writer: I’ve always loved to write and had the ability to write well. That was my main motive, the fact that I wanted to share my story. We all have a unique story of something, but there’s people that tell it and aren’t afraid to tell it, and people that never want to tell their story. I love sharing my story because I feel like there’s at least one person it can help.
On attending the UA over other schools: I called over 200 colleges and I called basically every school in the Pac-10. Arizona happened to be one of the ones that responded to my emails and to my letters … I told them I don’t care about playing time or notoriety, or any of that stuff, I just want to be a part of the team. Growing up, Arizona was always my favorite program to watch because of guys like Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas. One thing led to another and [former Arizona head] Coach [Lute] Olson came to one of my practices and I had the practice of my life and I hit like nine three pointers in a scrimmage that he was watching. He told me and his coaching staff “Yeah, this guy can walk on”.
On hitting a 3-pointer against Stanford in 2009: I definitely think to this day I’m still in shock. I think a lot of people were in shock, to tell you the truth. At the time, the original play was supposed to be an alley-oop pass that [former UA point guard] Nic Wise was supposed to throw to me, but it didn’t work out like that. When it went in, I was thinking this is my reward for four years of hard work. A lot of people don’t know, I was supposed to start that game. We had lost four or five games in a row, so our coach Russ Pennell said he had to start someone else. When that shot went in, everything I had worked for, everything I had wanted, everything I had thought about kind of happened.
On people’s reaction to the shot: There’s an image on the back of my first book or inside the book where after the shot goes in, I’m pointing to the ZonaZoo and you kind of see the looks on everyone’s faces and there’s one look to me that’s priceless. It’s someone in the middle of the crowd and it’s pure disbelief. I think that when it happened, I was very grateful, and happy and excited — but at the same time, I think a lot of people were in shock. Whenever I see people in Orange County or L.A. and they recognize that I went to Arizona, they’ll say “I was at the game in 2009, and I still can’t believe that actually happened.
On athletes becoming writers: Because there’s a message that we all have, whether you’re a guy like me at the end of the bench, or a guy like [New York Knicks forward] Amar’e Stoudemire, who is probably one of the top players in the NBA. The message is simple: If you have a dream, as an athlete like myself, my dream was to play in college. I knew I wasn’t in that top one percent that gets to the NBA like Chase Budinger or Jerryd Bayless. I knew I was good, but those guys are all on a whole different level. As an athlete, we all have a story to tell and we all want to show that if you have a dream, you shouldn’t give up and you should push toward your dream … I’m not saying that I’m an athlete that someone looked up to, but I’m not afraid to tell my story to young kids, which is basically don’t give up. If you don’t give up and you pursue your dream, anything can happen.
On what he expects to happen when people read this book: Kind of the same thing with The Walk On. I get emails about once a week from a parent or someone who read it and they’ll say, “You inspired my son to go try out for his JV basketball team or the varsity team and now he wants to go to college and get a degree.”
I hope that a kid that’s five or six years old can look at it and think “This guy never gave up, and he wound up accomplishing his goal,” which was making the team and helping the team win in some way. I really hope that a kid will understand that by never giving up, you’re giving yourself a chance to be successful and I hope parents will teach their kids to never give up and keep pushing through the journey.
On what he’s doing now, besides writing: I work at a software company. I’m an international business representative for a company in Orange County [Calif.] called Evercore. I work with Australia and New Zealand. It’s a lot of fun. Writing to me is more of a hobby because I don’t have time to do both. As much as I love writing I love my career more. That’s my main job. I deal with people everyday. We find new ways to develop software for people. It’s fun because I’ve put the skills I’ve learned from basketball as a student-athlete at the UA to my job and my life. That’s the ultimate gift that I have from the university. They did nothing but prepare me for what I was going to face.