LEXINGTON, Ky. — When 5-star big man Bol Bol takes his official visit to the University of Kentucky next weekend for the Big Blue Madness extravaganza, it’ll take more than a laser-light show to sway him.
Bol wants an explanation from coach John Calipari about why he cut the 7-foot-3 son of Manute Bol from USA Basketball’s under-19 team this summer. Before that surprise move, the Wildcats looked like frontrunners to land Bol.
“He’s kind of a little sad with Kentucky,” his mother Ajok told SEC Country on Wednesday night. “The coach promise him — like really promise him — that he’s going to be picked to go to Egypt [for the FIBA World Cup]. And then it did not happen. He was really sad about that. I could see he was sad. [Calipari] never explained what happened.”
She said someone from Kentucky visited Bol at his high school in California this week, but she was at work and the Wildcats’ staff plans to come back and meet with her, too. She wasn’t sure if she’ll make the trip to Lexington next week with her son, but hopes that an explanation of the Team USA cut will be part of UK’s pitch.
“It should be,” she said, “because I’m a little upset, too. We want to know what happened. But they’re still on his list and he’s still going to visit.”
Despite the snub, Kentucky is suddenly in a little better position with Bol than in July, when he also expressed disappointment over the national team cut. That is in part because two of his other finalists — Arizona and Southern California — have since been ensnared in the FBI’s bombshell investigation of corruption in college basketball.
“I don’t think we want to visit [those two schools] until we find out everything is clear,” Bol’s mother said. “We don’t want any trouble. We don’t want to be a part of that.”
He had previously scheduled official visits to Arizona for Oct. 28 and USC on Nov. 4.
But now SEC Country has learned that Oregon — where Bol took an official visit last week — and Kentucky are considered the top two contenders to land the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, per the 247Sports Composite.
The corruption scandal could also help UK with another top-40 player in the class: Shareef O’Neal, the 6-foot-9, 4-star son of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. He is currently committed to Arizona but there is increasing buzz that he could soon back out of that pledge.
Shaq has talked openly about how much he likes Calipari and Kentucky’s reputation for developing future pros. Shareef O’Neal is Bol’s AAU teammate and it is now expected that he’ll visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness with Bol and 5-star point guard Darius Garland.
Of note: 247Sports recruiting analyst Andrew Slater recently changed his Crystal Ball prediction for O’Neal to Kentucky.