UK Men's Basketball

A new leader might be emerging for ‘enigmatic’ five-star basketball recruit Bol Bol

Bol Bol was the regular-season most valuable player on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer. He earned a UK scholarship offer in May.
Bol Bol was the regular-season most valuable player on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer. He earned a UK scholarship offer in May.

There’s no denying the success Bol Bol has had on the basketball court this summer.

The 7-foot-3 son of the late NBA star Manute Bol has rocketed up the class of 2018 recruiting rankings with his stellar performances on the Nike circuit. He won regular-season MVP honors in that league over the likes of fellow top-five prospects Marvin Bagley and Cameron Reddish, and he earned scholarship offers from Kentucky and other big-name schools along the way.

The production has been there, and the Bol of the present has been one of the best players in the country. The Bol of the future remains a mystery.

“The thing is, Bol Bol has a very odd, enigmatic game,” 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer told the Herald-Leader. “So, how does he fit into a system? And is he good enough to build a system around him? There’s a lot of questions about the guy. He’s an enigma. There’s no doubt. He’s going to be an interesting one to watch.”

Starting with the good: Bol, for his size, is unlike any high school prospect in recent years. Despite his height and length — he has a 7-8 wingspan and 9-7 standing reach — Bol might be more comfortable playing away from the basket than near it.

He averaged 24.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and a league-high 4.5 blocked shots during the Nike EYBL regular season. He also shot 49 percent from three-point range.

Defensively, he often gives maximum effort inside and away from the basket, creating havoc on the perimeter with his length and blocking shots in abundance with his timing and quick second jumps.

“He’s just skilled overall. And you can’t deny the numbers that he’s put up,” Meyer said. “He’s been arguably the top player in the EYBL.

“That traditional post-up game is just going away. Basketball has evolved past that. Or devolved, depending on what your viewpoint is. So you still have to be physical and effective, but it’s more about being able to play facing the basket, offensively. This is a great time for him. In the past, everyone would have been stressing, ‘Can he post up? Can he bang on the block?’ Because that’s just how everyone looked at it.”

But …

“There are reservations about him as well,” Meyer said.

One fear — an uncommon one in this sport — is that he’ll keep growing.

Bol’s father was listed at 7-7 and was known more for his shot-blocking abilities than anything else. The younger Bol — now 4 inches shorter than his dad — has amazing control for his size and his age. He moves fluidly without the ball and can actually create for himself and others offensively, often playing on the perimeter in halfcourt sets.

“What makes Bol Bol so good is he can dribble,” Meyer said. “He can actually put it on the floor. If he gets too tall — just your center of gravity — you can get too tall. I mean, that’s why you don’t see 6-8 running backs.”

How Bol fits into certain systems — and plays alongside other players — could also be an issue, depending on the circumstances.

Meyer found it curious that the five-star recruit didn’t make the cut for John Calipari’s USA Basketball squad that played in the FIBA U19 World Cup this month. “You don’t usually see guys not make the USA team when he’s being recruited by the coach,” he said.

Bol was also surprised by his omission from the Team USA squad.

“I felt pretty comfortable,” he said. “I thought I was going to make the team. … It was very disappointing, because I just heard good things from (Calipari) and other people the whole weekend, so I thought I was on there.”

Bol, playing in the Nike Peach Jam here this week, did say there were no hard feelings toward Calipari, and he acknowledged that he knew it was ultimately the decision of a committee of Team USA officials, not just the UK coach.

“It wasn’t just his fault,” Bol said. “I don’t really blame him for not putting me on the team, because he can’t, like, officially decide everyone who’s on the team.”

Going into last month’s Team USA training camp, Kentucky and Arizona were thought to be the favorites in Bol’s recruitment. (Arizona Coach Sean Miller was also on the committee that left Bol off the USA squad, for the record).

His future plans indicate he truly doesn’t hold a grudge toward Calipari or Miller.

Asked if there were any schools he knew would get one of his official visits, Bol listed UK, Arizona and Oregon as three he would probably see sometime after Peach Jam, noting he might visit Lexington for Big Blue Madness.

Meyer, however, recently changed his 247Sports Crystal Ball pick from Kentucky to Southern Cal. national analyst Eric Bossi also predicted Bol to USC, which is now the hometown school for the rising star.

Bol started his high school career in Kansas but moved to Mater Dei High School in the Los Angeles area midway through his junior season.

USC Coach Andy Enfield, who has been a regular at Bol’s games this summer and was there alongside Calipari, Miller and Oregon Coach Dana Altman on Thursday night, will now have him in the Trojans’ backyard for the rest of his high school career. That could pay off by the time Bol is ready to make a decision.

“The original Kentucky pick — they offered and it wasn’t really based on anything super, super solid,” Meyer said of his Crystal Ball switch. “He got the Kentucky offer, and he liked Kentucky.

“But I think his ties are strong in Southern California. The fact that he’s there now … it’s huge. The more I thought about it, the likelihood of him staying there seemed pretty high.”

247Sports player rankings for the class of 2018

  • 1. Zion Williamson
  • 2. Marvin Bagley
  • 3. Bol Bol
  • 4. Romeo Langford
  • 5. Cameron Reddish