NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Two years ago, Jeff Webster was helping Julius Randle prepare for his basketball future, serving as a mentor for the young player who would go on to lead the University of Kentucky to the Final Four and eventually be selected with the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft.
Webster's new protégé is Marques Bolden, who led Webster's Pro Skills Elite squad to this week's Nike Peach Jam tournament and has scholarship offers from just about every major college in America.
UK is one of the programs that wants Bolden bad, and the Cats obviously already have a great connection. But when it comes to big men who once wore the blue and white, Randle isn't the comparison Webster came up with for Bolden.
"I don't want to jinx the kid, but he has a Karl Towns type of ability," he told the Herald-Leader.
Webster will be the first to tell you he has a long way to get to that point.
The former University of Oklahoma standout and professional basketball player has been working with Bolden for two years. The relationship started when Webster was an assistant with the Texas Titans — Randle's former AAU club — and Bolden joined the team.
This summer is Webster's first as the head coach of Pro Skills Elite, and Bolden is the star player. Webster continues to push Bolden to become a better leader and more aggressive player on the court, but the results so far have been nothing short of spectacular.
"Every chance I get, I'm in that gym with him," Bolden said. "He just tells me the stuff Julius does, and obviously he's in the pros and that's where everyone is trying to get. He tells me all the things Julius did, and what I should look to do. And how to prepare like he prepared."
Bolden's recruiting profile has continued to rise over the past few months. He now has scholarship offers from UK, Duke, Kansas, UCLA and several others. Scout.com ranks him as the No. 1 center and No. 6 overall prospect in the loaded class of 2016.
Listed at 6-11 and 230 pounds, Bolden certainly has the size to bowl over opponents in the lane, like Randle did in high school and as a Wildcat. But, like Towns, he prefers a different approach.
"It's easier to be smarter than to just fuss and fight with guys and try to outmuscle them," Bolden said. "I also want to stretch the floor and become more mobile, instead of just being that guy that runs to the block."
Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels says Bolden possesses "the full package" for a center prospect. He obviously has the size, but he also has great hands, a willingness to run the floor and fight for loose balls, the length and instincts to be a great defender and the ability to rebound on both sides of the court.
And then, there's his footwork.
The ease with which Bolden can create opportunities for himself in the low post is probably his most impressive asset.
"He's fine-tuned on that end," Daniels said. "He's really learned how to score around the basket. And it starts with his footwork and his hands and his touch. He's got crisp post moves.
"It's just rare to see out of guys his age. He's clearly been taught and he's clearly been coached, because there's just not a lot of dudes who have that type of footwork."
Bolden plans to sit down with Webster and his parents after the AAU season and trim his list of schools to a more manageable number. Three programs that will definitely make the cut are UK, Duke and Kansas.
He likes what those schools have done in recent years with post players, and — like any five-star recruit — his ultimate goal is to play in the NBA.
Webster said he's certain Bolden will get that opportunity. "He's a gifted kid. He's a special kid," he said. "He'll get there, because he works hard."
Bolden — though he's already achieved lofty status in recruiting circles — knows there's much more work to be done.
"I'm not nearly as close as I want to be."