John Calipari was in Rupp Arena on Friday to get another look at Dominique Hawkins, but Holmes point guard James “Beetle” Bolden surely caught his eye.
Bolden, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, had 29 points, 13 rebounds and made five of nine three-point attempts in Holmes’ 65-61 loss to Madison Central in the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals.
Bolden again wowed the Rupp crowd with his ballhandling ability and constantly kept Madison Central defenders off balance with his crossover dribble.
Hawkins had already played against UK signee Andrew Harrison and U of L commitment Quentin Snider this season. He said Bolden was one of the toughest point guards he’s ever had to defend.
“His ballhandling is amazing,” he said.
Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said the defensive strategy they had for Bolden didn’t do much good.
“By looking at his numbers I don’t think we had one, to tell you the truth,” Feldhaus said. “He’s good. We wanted to try our best to try to make him go to his right. He doesn’t shoot it quite as good going to his right. But he’s crafty with that ball — different. Just a different type of point guard with his ballhandling skills.
“He’s already a nice player. He’s really going to be a nice player in two more years.”
In the post-game handshake line, Hawkins stopped to say a few extra words to his younger counterpart.
“I was telling him to keep his head up,” he said. “He’s an excellent point guard. Next year he’s going to be great and then the year after that he’s going to be amazing. Everybody’s probably going to want him.”
Calipari could end up in that category. The UK coach was waiting outside the Holmes locker room after the game, presumably to talk to Holmes Coach Jason Booher.
If UK pursues Bolden, they’ll likely find an eager target. He said Wednesday that UK is his dream school, and he’s been a lifelong fan of the Wildcats.
Xavier is currently his only offer, but Cincinnati and Purdue have already expressed interest.
Bolden will play this summer for the new Kentucky Travelers program, which competes in the Nike EYBL.