Holmes point guard James “Beetle” Bolden has been a Kentucky basketball fan his entire life, but until Wednesday he had never stepped foot in Rupp Arena.
“I came out nervous, looking around,” Bolden said. “I just wanted to take that first shot as soon as I stepped out.”
The 5-foot-11 sophomore’s shot wasn’t falling in his Sweet Sixteen debut against PRP, but the Bulldogs did enough to earn a 65-60 victory and advance to the quarterfinals Friday. Bolden finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and a couple of big blocks in transition.
After the game, Holmes Coach Jason Booher mentioned that half of his players had never been in Rupp Arena before this week. Bolden nodded his head. Then Booher noted that maybe Rupp was “just another” building to his guys. Bolden shook his head vigorously.
“This is my dream college,” he said. “For me to go out there and play on that court, it means a lot to me. I was very excited.”
Kentucky hasn’t contacted Bolden yet — he’s just a sophomore, after all — but he does have a scholarship offer from Xavier, which he visited recently. Cincinnati, Purdue, Butler, Ohio, Wright State, Dayton and others have expressed interest.
“It means a lot. I’m finally getting the recognition,” Bolden said. “I’ve been in the gym all summer working on my game, and it paid off.”
Bolden grew up a Kentucky fan and said Rajon Rondo is his favorite all-time Wildcat. The class of 2015 guard flashed some Rondo-like showiness at times against PRP. He dribbled circles around defenders, made several no-look passes that found their mark and played solid defense.
PRP Coach Dale Mabrey was among those impressed.
“There’s a 10th-grade guard out front that’s just blossoming (into) an all-star,” Mabrey said. “He’s a hard guard. He’s very deceptive, very crafty with that ball.”
Bolden’s next assignment will be potential UK recruit Dominique Hawkins, a senior for Madison Central. That matchup will take place Friday at noon in Rupp Arena.