When the opportunity arrived for Bol Bol to play his first game with the Mater Dei boys’ basketball team, the biggest challenge for his teammates was passing the ball high enough.
You see, Bol is a 7-foot tall 17-year-old junior, owns a wingspan of someone six inches taller and will likely grow even more, considering his father was former 11-year NBA veteran Manute Bol, who was 7’7”.
When you’re that tall, throwing down a slam dunk usually doesn’t take much effort.
“He can touch the rim while standing on the floor,” said Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight. “Sometimes, it looks like one of us trying to dunk on a Nerf basket.”
Because he’s much, much taller than the average high school player, scoring is relatively easy for Bol if the basketball is passed about a foot above the rim. The Monarchs, however, weren’t used to making those types of passes when Bol made his season debut Jan. 20.
“We struggled a little bit with that,” Mater Dei point guard Spencer Freedman said after the 85-64 win at Orange Lutheran. “Some [passes] were too high, sometimes we’d throw passes too low. There are not many people in this world that are that big.”
Bol’s height, basketball skills and athletic ability should be a huge advantage when the competition gets stiffer in the playoffs. The Monarchs’ only loss through the first 22 games came against Chino Hills, ranked No. 1 in CIF-SS Division I-AA, and second-ranked Sierra Canyon is led by 6-11 forward Marvin Bagley III, the top-ranked junior in California.
“It’s definitely a huge addition,” Freedman said of Bol. “Those are really good teams and we know we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them, and he obviously helps with being our best.”
The Monarchs didn’t have Bol the first 21 games. He spent his first two years of high school at Bishop Miege in Roeland Park, Kan. before leaving in early November. He enrolled at Mater Dei on Jan. 3, a school three times the size of Bishop Miege.
When it was reported that Bol could be headed to Mater Dei, McKnight searched the internet and found a YouTube video of Bol dribbling the ball like a point guard and leaping high in the air for easy slam dunks.
McKnight wasn’t convinced it was an accurate display of Bol’s skills until he walked into the gym at Mater Dei and began flashing those same abilities.
“He’s very talented, very coordinated,” McKnight said.
Bol was a huge success in his first game with the Monarchs, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in just under 17 minutes.
“His size, his length, and his presence out there are obvious,” Freedman said. “He rebounds and can run the floor well. He definitely brings a new element.”
Freedman said Bol’s biggest weapon on defense is his shot-blocking ability. That allows the Mater Dei guards to closely guard the 3-point line without fear of getting beat off the dribble.
“If we get a chance to get out there more and force [opponents] into him, he changes every shot at the rim,” Freedman said.
Bol already has college scholarship offers from such powerhouses as Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. It’s a safe bet more schools will get in line before he’s finished at Mater Dei.