Writing his own script
David Bagga's basketball career ended after he was cut from the European teams. Now the former UA walk-on is finishing the final chapter on his own book.
Anticipation mounted as David Bagga awaited his departure from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.
After a cross-country flight from Orange County, the former UA basketball walk-on sat idle at his journey's halfway point.
He was off to Europe, stationed at a much more symbolic halfway point: The transition from a misfit college basketball benchwarmer to any form of a professional basketball player.
""I had an Arizona sweatshirt on and one of the guys also heading off to Europe asked me if I was a fan of Arizona,"" Bagga said.
""I kind of looked at him and said, ‘Something like that.'""
Bagga, often known more as a fan-favorite rah-rah guy than an on-court contributor, wanted to hold onto basketball as long as possible after graduating from the UA this spring.
Then he got cut overseas in September.
Nine teams, 13 days and thousands of miles later, the final chapter of his basketball career came to a close.
Coast-to-coast, over the pond, then back coast-to-coast — now he can finally publish his story.
• • •
Getting cut was always his biggest fear.
Just for fun, just because making the team as a walk-on was already defying odds in itself, Bagga began chronicling his adventures from the day he walked on campus.
""I always had that fear, when I had coach (Lute) Olson he would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I don't need you anymore,'"" Bagga said. ""That's always something that pushed me to work harder in the classroom.""
His writing gave him a platform to express the behind-the-scenes life of being part of a program coming off a 2005 Elite Eight appearance, like the time one of Bagga's teammates tried to break his jaw.
In practice freshman year, Bagga accidentally got tangled up with one of his teammates, who thought it was on purpose.
""He tried to start something with me, I tried to walk away and he hit me right in the face in the middle of the drill,"" Bagga said. ""There was blood coming out of my palate. My whole mouth was bleeding.
""I felt like quitting and (was) thinking how I didn't even sign up for this. But it was part of the journey of being a walk-on.""
And he kept with it, even through two coaching changes and sudden departure of Lute Olson — the man Bagga dedicated his memoirs to.
""I thought, I don't know what's going to happen in the next three years, but I want to continue writing,"" Bagga said.
As if anybody could ever script what happened.
• • •
Everything was different overseas. Europeans generally didn't care about basketball.
""(It was) kind of shell-shocking at first because I was out there on my own. The whole scene out there was unbelievable,"" Bagga said. ""A lot of people don't even know England has basketball teams because most of the attention goes to soccer out there, which they call football.""
Basketball isn't a major European sport, nor does it carry the attention and intensity of the crazed college environment in the U.S.
Instead of flying to away games like Pacific 10 Conference basketball teams, Bagga and the 14 hopefuls took trains — averaging three hours of travel — across Europe.
""I was on a train, I had all my Arizona stuff on, and some lady was asking me what it was,"" Bagga said. ""When I told her I played for the University of Arizona, she thought I was in the NBA.""
It's not a pampered game, either. Bagga said it was the most physical style he's ever seen, comparable to the NBA D-League tryouts he participated in earlier this summer.
Of the 14 misfits, mostly comprised of NAIA and Division II players, only two were given contracts.
""There were no boys. It was all men,"" said 22-year-old Bagga, the youngest participant on the trip. ""It's definitely a men's league out there.""
• • •
Bagga returned to the U.S. in September and picked up a new game: marketing. The publishers at AuthorHouse are pushing Bagga's promotions and relationships.
They gave him a 16-page booklet of media contacts from Orange County to Pima County and everywhere in between. From television, radio, and newspaper to the Internet, Bagga will begin a book tour in Tucson.
""I told someone at my gym, they asked me what's next now that I'm not playing overseas,"" Bagga said. ""I said I had a book coming out. They said, ‘About what?'
""Honestly, there are some people who don't believe me when I tell them I have a book coming out,"" Bagga said.
""The Walk On"" will be available Oct. 27 on Amazon.com — maybe by then, people will believe.
Because that's all Bagga ever did.
— Bryan Roy can be reached at email@example.com