UK Men's Basketball

Calipari, Fox selling UK basketball as No. 1 center Bolden nears his college decision

De'Aaron Fox talks UK at the McDonald's game

Future UK point guard De'Aaron Fox talks about recruiting Marques Bolden and playing for a "super team" at Kentucky next season.
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Future UK point guard De'Aaron Fox talks about recruiting Marques Bolden and playing for a "super team" at Kentucky next season.

It was no mistake that five-star center Marques Bolden kept his recruitment quiet over the past few months.

Bolden — a 6-foot-10 prospect from DeSoto, Texas — is one of the top uncommitted high school seniors in the country, but he put all of the recruiting questions on the back-burner to concentrate on leading DeSoto High School to a state title.

Two weeks ago, he did just that, and just after the final buzzer sounded to officially ring in the championship, he was approached on the court by a man who claimed Bolden had promised to tell him where he was going to college after his season was finished.

“We had literally just won,” the 17-year-old said Sunday night. “I was still on the court in my jersey and everything. That’s how crazy it’s been.”

Bolden didn’t have an answer for that fan the night of his state title victory, and he’s still mulling his options two weeks later. The No. 1 center in the country remains uncommitted, but some questions about his recruitment are starting to get cleared up.

In an interview with the Herald-Leader on Sunday night, Bolden said he has narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Duke and Texas Christian and expects to announce a college decision sometime soon.

He said that announcement will not come while he’s in Chicago for the McDonald’s All-American Game, which is Wednesday night, but it definitely will come sometime before his 18th birthday on April 17.

“I’m not going to wait that long,” he said of the 17th, which has been rumored as a possible decision day. “That’s super late.”

Bolden has a good grasp on all three of his finalists, but he said he wants to sit down with the coach of each program one more time before making a decision.

UK’s John Calipari got the first meeting, flying to Texas on Thursday to speak with Bolden and his parents just a few days removed from the Wildcats’ loss to Indiana in the NCAA Tournament.

“We talked about a lot,” Bolden said. “We really got a lot out of that conversation, and it really meant a lot for him to lose a game like that and still be worried about me and to come and see me. We talked about, if I were to go there, how I would play. We talked about his plan for me.”

That plan would involve adding Bolden to what is already billed as arguably the best recruiting class in Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky. That group includes fellow McDonald’s All-Americans Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk, as well as five-star small forward Wenyen Gabriel.

Another plan would be to join Duke’s highly touted group of recruits, which includes No. 1 overall player Harry Giles and McDonald’s All-Americans Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum.

Bolden talked up both programs.

On UK: “I love the way they’re so position-less and they’re so mobile. They’re not stagnant. They’re able to guard anyone. And I really like just how free they play.”

On Duke: “You don’t have to come in worrying about how you’re going to fit in and if it’s going to work or not. Coach K is obviously a great coach. He’s had a lot of success over the years. And they put people in the league, too.”

Bolden said he has spoken briefly to Mike Krzyzewski since the Blue Devils’ tournament loss to Oregon, but he wants to talk more before his decision.

TCU recently hired Jamie Dixon as its new head coach, and Bolden said he spoke to him for about five minutes recently but acknowledged that the coaching change might impact the recruitment. “It’s not the same at all, because their whole staff left,” he said. He added that he was looking forward to talking to Dixon more in the near future.

Recruiting analysts have long expected Bolden to choose either UK or Duke.

Bolden is well aware both programs will have plenty of talented big men next season. He said he’s looking closely at the rosters of his finalists, but it’s more to get a sense of how he’d fit with other players than it is to maximize potential playing time.

“I’m not looking for somebody that has no one (in the post),” he said.

Asked specifically about Adebayo — a 6-9, 260-pound post player — Bolden said he didn’t think playing alongside him would be a problem.

“I think we would fit well, mainly because of the guards they would have around us, too,” he said. “Great guards and us two playing together? I think that would really work out.”

Bolden laughed and nodded when asked whether the McDonald’s All-Americans headed to UK and Duke have been delivering sales pitches since they started arriving in town Saturday. One, in particular, has apparently been on him the hardest.

“I’d probably have to say Fox is doing the most,” Bolden said. “We’re both from Texas, and I’ve barely had the opportunity to play with him. I’ve always played against him, but we’ve never really been on the same team.

“That’s one thing he’s been talking to me about.”

Fox walked in at the end of the interview and chatted Bolden up a little more. It’s likely to be a common theme over the next few days.

“I’m just on Marques all the time,” Fox said. “We’ve known each other since fourth grade. So I know him on a personal level. Most of it is fun and games, but I really want to play with him.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats