NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Bol Bol on Thursday finally answered the big question Kentucky fans have been fretting over since John Calipari cut him from USA Basketball’s under-19 team last month: Will that hurt the Wildcats’ chances to land the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2018?
The 7-foot-3 Bol paused at that question after a game here at Peach Jam 2017. He shrugged. He smiled.
“I haven’t thought about it, really,” he said, but it’s obvious to him that Kentucky’s coaching staff has. Assistant Kenny Payne reached out shortly after the USA roster was announced. “He told me I should’ve made it.”
If the decision has diminished the Cats’ position with Bol, it isn’t reflected in his list of three planned official visits this fall: Kentucky, Arizona and Oregon. He’ll likely visit Lexington for the annual recruiting extravaganza known as Big Blue Madness on Oct. 13.
Bol said he was aware that a selection committee — not just Calipari alone — voted on the final 12-man roster at national team training camp in Colorado, where he made the initial cut to 18 players.
“It wasn’t just his fault,” said the 5-star son of Manute Bol. “It was a coaching staff and a USA Basketball staff, so 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.”
Everyone looks up to 7'2" Bol Bol. He said he thought he'd make the U-19 Team USA squad. pic.twitter.com/6ivhn54mRb
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) July 13, 2017
There is also a rule that Team USA could only take one naturalized citizen to play in the FIBA U19 World Cup, and Josh Okogie, a Nigerian-born guard from Georgia Tech, made the team. Perhaps that precluded the Sudanese-born Bol from being picked?
“I don’t think that was it,” he said.
The only Team USA game Bol watched during the World Cup in Egypt was its upset semifinal loss to Canada. The Americans took home a bronze without him, ending a streak of two straight golds. He couldn’t help but think he might’ve made a difference.
Being cut came as a surprise after a week of training camp in which he seemed to be connecting well with Calipari.
“I felt pretty comfortable. He was a pretty cool person. I thought I was going to make the team, but I guess I didn’t,” he said. “It was very disappointing, because I just heard good things from him and other people the whole weekend, so I thought I was on there.”
The good news for Calipari and the Cats is Bol will give them plenty of other opportunities to woo him. The official visit will be a big step. The leading shot blocker on Nike’s AAU circuit — and 50 percent 3-point shooter at that absurd height — is still not close to making a decision.
“I’m definitely open,” Bol said Thursday. “I don’t have my mind set on any school.”